Subliminal messages exert long-term effects on decision making

Ruch, Simon; Züst, Marc; Henke, Katharina (2016). Subliminal messages exert long-term effects on decision making. Neuroscience of Consciousness, 2016(1), pp. 1-9. Oxford University Press 10.1093/nc/niw013

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Subliminal manipulation is often considered harmless because its effects typically decay within a second. So far, subliminal long-term effects on behavior were only observed in studies which repeatedly presented highly familiar information such as single words. These studies suggest that subliminal messages are only slowly stored and might not be stored at all if they provide novel, unfamiliar information. We speculated that subliminal messages might affect delayed decision making especially if messages contain several pieces of novel information that must be relationally bound in long-term memory. Relational binding engages the hippocampal memory system, which can rapidly encode and durably store novel relations. Here, we hypothesized that subliminally presented stimulus pairs would be relationally processed influencing the direction of delayed conscious decisions. In experiment 1, subliminal face-occupation pairs affected conscious decisions about the income of these individuals almost half an hour later. In experiment 2, subliminal presentation of vocabulary of a foreign language enabled participants to later decide whether these foreign words are presented with correct or incorrect translations. Subliminal influence did not significantly decay if probed after 25 vs. 15 minutes. This is unprecedented evidence of the longevity and impact of subliminal messages on conscious, rational decision making.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Psychological and Behavioral Health
10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Cognition, Learning and Memory (CCLM)

UniBE Contributor:

Ruch, Simon, Züst, Marc, Henke, Katharina


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Oxford University Press




Katharina Henke Westerholt

Date Deposited:

17 Aug 2016 17:27

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:57

Publisher DOI:





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