|MadSci Network: Neuroscience|
Many psychological experiments have shown people respond to information that they are not aware of receiving. eg. Corteen and Wood (1972) asked participants to report back a stream of text read into one ear while other words were fed into the other ear. It was found that those words presented subliminally (into the unattended ear) that the participants had previously been trained to associate with an electric shock produced sweating etc. though the participants remained unaware that they had heard them. This has had some helpful results eg. Silverman (1978) managed to reduce neurotic overeating in obese patients by subliminally presenting reassuring messages but has also led to Science Fiction "horror" stories about people being conditioned by subliminal advertising eg. Killashandra by Anne McCaffrey. Explanations of why it works are limited to theoretical models of what might be happening as psychologists are unable to see inside the brain. It is thought that the brain can both actively direct what is being attended to and process this information thoroughly but at the same time roughly process other events in the surrounding environment just in case attention needs to be swapped to them. Main source. The Oxford Companion to the Mind edited by R. Gregory (1987)
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