We’re all exposed to a massive number of suggestions and influences from the environment every day. Yet we don’t all respond to them, and we don’t all react to them the same way. I may be influenced by something you don’t even register and vice versa. It’s obvious we aren’t merely passive receptors for whatever is going on around us. This is a subject that has fascinated me from early childhood and is one of the reasons I’m predisposed to be interested in things like the Enneagram, the MBTI, and various areas of psychology and neuroscience.
The May/June 2012 issue of Scientific American Mind includes an article titled, “The Subtle Power of Hidden Messages,” which isn’t about personality or temperament, per se, but still speaks to the issue of who responds to what stimuli—and when. The author’s conclusion was that, yes, subliminal messages or advertisements can influence our behavior. But they can’t actually cause us to do something we wouldn’t ordinarily do. They can’t brainwash us. They can’t redirect our will. We’re only susceptible to subliminal messages in certain limited situations: when we’re open to persuasion because of a particular need—i.e., we’re looking for something, whether or not we’re consciously aware of looking for it.
Thirst is an example of one such need we might not be consciously aware of or conscious of trying to fill. Continue reading