Are Subliminal Messages and Brainwave Technology a Scam? Part 1



Madmen were probably the first civilians to use subliminal messages. Their intentions were not exactly pure.

The Madison Avenue Advertising Barons of yesteryear–just as the television series showed us–lived recklessly and did anything to make a buck. I’m related by marriage to the son of a Madman who claims he can’t stomach the television series because it’s too close to home. Seems life as a rich kid is not all it’s cracked up to be.

I recall a documentary that said Madmen got the idea from governmental experiments to use recorded subliminal messages implanted in movie theatre previews: “Go get a large Coke, gigantic popcorn and candy bar NOW” (with unseen, related photos flashing by), and music in stores: “You can enjoy that now, there’s no reason to wait, you can easily afford it. Slow down, enjoy the music and keep shopping. There’s lots you want to buy here.” I’ve often wondered if they are also used in customer service phone recordings while I wait in cue: “Hang up before this annoying, anxiety-producing music makes you crazy so we don’t have to be bothered by you.” Or, “Relax to this dreamy music; you are getting sleepy. You love our product and the problem you are having is YOUR fault, so give us a break and buy more of our product that we will try to sell you at the end of the call.” Sinister–if it actually works.

Subliminals, Supraliminals, and Semantics 

Madmen push sales.

Looking closely at many cited and un-cited claims, I came to recognize some poor use of industry jargon laced with skewing of semantics designed to–like Madmen–push sales.

The plethora of conflicting information I read about subliminals over the past two weeks was enough to turn me into a madman! After researching “subliminal” products, claims and scientific studies, I learned far too much to put into one post. And because I changed from a proponent to a proponent with certain qualifiers, I had to re-write the post. It grew in information and length; therefore, Part 1 is a general overview without citations, while Part 2 (next blog) will give you citations and more details on the qualifiers.

For starters, I broke through the sales-y skewing of scientific semantics that make a case for sublimals being effective.  I also recognized that “subliminal” recordings are often mis-labeled. Many so-called subliminal messages are, in actuality, “supraliminal” messages, those which do influence us on a conscious level, such as German music being played in a supermarket that showed an increase in sales of German wines (North, Hargreaves, & McKendrick, 1999).

Bona fide research tells us that messages heard or seen, albeit faintly, indirectly, or unnoticed, do reach our subconscious mind and, if a message resonates with our intentions, can affect our decisions and actions. This is important to understand, because it is our subconscious beliefs that rule our conscious beliefs, thereby affecting our decisions and actions. (For more on the relationship of the subconscious and conscious minds, you may want to–later–visit my pages, About RoriO and Help Starts Here, and read my post upcoming after Part 2 of this one, Why Change Your Subliminal Beliefs?)

The qualifier for hidden messages working is that they must be within the conscious threshold where your eyes and ears can see or hear the messages whether or not you notice them. Calling hidden messages that are within the conscious threshold “subliminal” is a misnomer, because that would mean the effects (or messages) are below the conscious threshold. Messages or effects within the conscious threshold are considered “supraliminal.”

A Higher Purpose

higher purpose

Positive benefits can be garnered from recordings that include “supraliminal” effects, those within the conscious threshold, even if you don’t consciously notice them. “Subliminal” messages are technically below the conscious threshold and ineffective.

Which leads me to something plain as day: the effects of music, binaural beats and isochronic tones. Given what the scientists say, we can assume subliminal recordings that include beats and tones work not because of any embedded, unheard and unseen subliminal messages, but because sounds are used to induce a particular mood or brainwave state.

Our brain will naturally match the pace and mood of music and rhythms. Using binaural beats or isochronic tones to get our brain to match a certain mood or brainwave state is called Brainwave Entrainment. While music, beats and/or tones can support an intended activity, any embedded subliminal messages would, according to all the scientific research that stays within the true definition of the term “subliminal,” be moot.

Back in the mid-to-late 1970’s I started listening to cassette tapes that combined spoken and subliminal messages, and managed to accumulate quite a library of them! They were recorded and sold by doctors and self-help gurus who became well-known and trusted for their self-improvement ideas and logic. Their audible (supraliminal) spoken affirmations, combined with the soothing music (also supraliminal), helped my young sons and me relax and fall asleep during some very troubling times. The recordings helped us, irrespective of any subliminal messages.

Tech Evolution

high tech chip

You can read elsewhere on this site about how our subconscious mind influences our beliefs–and therefore influences our life outcomes. It’s on my pages, About RoriO and Help Starts Here, as well as the post that follows Part 2 of this post.

Following is the spectrum of varieties I found used in today’s recordings intended for self-development: 

  • There are of course the original type with simple subliminal messages buried in music or sounds of nature. Many people say these work for them; just read all the testimonials on any site where you can buy them! But you have to consider the effects of the rhythm, music, nature sounds, or any other supraliminal effects such as audible messaging therein.
  • Self-development varieties other than subliminal recordings are powered by supraliminal assets.
  • There are some other styles of self-development recordings, including the whisper method, lightning technology, reverse speech and stereo confusion. I don’t know much about these, but if these styles are used to record solely subliminal messages without supraliminal attributes, science tells us they don’t work.
  • Hypnosis falls under the category of supraliminal because it is a conscious suggestive medium. It is proven, and it is common knowledge that it works.
  • Meditation recordings, technically, should not be suggestive since the purpose of meditation is to clear the mind of thought. That said, music, binaural beats, and/or isochronic tones can produce a calming Theta brainwave state conducive to meditation because it matches the state one is in during meditation.
  • There are some self-writable programs whereby you choose the style of music and the positive affirmations you want to hear and/or show up on the background of your computer screen as you work or surf the net. Look for those that include binaural beats and/or isochronic tones to boost the effect. Isochronic tones are said to be far more effective than binaural beats. Again, any visual or audio messages have to be within the conscious threshold to be effective.
  • In my opinion, the Cadillac of recordings for all purposes except meditation would include a hybrid of all these mediums.

Binaural Beats and Isochronic TonesGiven the mood of the music, binaural beats, and/or isochronic tones setting the correct brainwave entrainment response, plus seeing or hearing affirmations, I have experienced some powerful so-called “subliminals” that in reality were supraliminal. So, with the right features–or qualifiers, some of these mis-named products can be helpful for achieving specific goals, whether it be to focus, be calm, sleep better, have better brain function, be happy, override a bad habit, or just about anything you can think of. They definitely can create a brain state change that can help you meet your goal while listening, and are said to leave residual effects that could, if repeated over enough time, change your thinking habits and action habits.

Despite all the science against subliminal messages, many people still believe subliminal messages work, probably due to historical (and hysterical) influences. For example, in 1990, based on the premise that subliminal messaging is valid, an American court held a trial. A group of overzealous people accused the band, Judas Priest, of planting into one of their songs a subliminal message that could be deciphered as “Do it!” when a particular sound bite was played backwards. The message was supposedly responsible for two boys locking themselves into a bedroom for days and playing this sound bite over and over until it somehow made them commit suicide.

The trial found against the plaintiffs not because subliminal messaging was debunked (it apparently wasn’t even yet clearly defined), but because the bandleader showed the court that in general, playing record albums backwards produces a plethora of ridiculous, yet somewhat comprehensible messages that we can hear if we really want to. Seems the message is in the mind of the beholder.

Words are Powerful; so are Accredited Sources


Cited scientific evidence, when read while keeping the term “subliminal” in its strict sense, allows you to understand just how audios can work to improve your life.

Today I covered what we should look for in self-development recordings, and that subliminal messages, technically, are not effective. We also know that many people (myself included, until I researched for this writing) still believe subliminals influence the subconscious. I think that perhaps because so many people still believe subliminal messages work, and sellers naturally want to capture that market, some information gets skewed to hook believers into buying. But the jury is in, and the best subliminal recordings are only as good as their supraliminal effects.

Some product descriptions allude to subliminal messaging working, while better products omit the subliminal messages altogether and use the best supraliminal effects. Some subliminal recordings give you a list, or a spoken recording of the subliminal messages, and suggest you prime yourself with those from time to time. Unless you have a lot of disposable income I would pass on those, and focus on those with the attributes known to work.

Brain Evolution System

Click on the image to go to my Reviews Page and learn more about BrainEv and Inspire3 products.

For positive thinking and better focus, I buy BrainEv products. They include cited information from authoritative sources and superior brainwave entrainment sounds, including isochonic tones, known to be far more effective than binaural beats.

BrainEv’s Brain Evolution System doesn’t bother with subliminals, but rather a hybrid of  binaural, isochronic, temporal entrainment, and nature sounds to induce Theta-frequency brainwave entrainment conducive to meditation. The Brain Evolution System claims to train users to control their emotions on demand. This training requires moving up through each of 6 levels over 6 months, so it is long term and intended to instill healthy emotional habits. The Brain Evolution System seems to make good sense if you want to boost your calm positivity for the long run, thereby improving your relationships and life outcomes. No more regrettable emotional blow-ups!

NitroFocus is another BrainEv audio program using isochronic tones. You can use a choice of 5 recordings in the program depending on whether you want to blitz through a mundane task, get creative, brainstorm, learn something new, study for an exam, work out, write, and anything in-between that requires focus and anxiety-reduction. 7 bonus audios include things like break audios to cool you down from all that Gamma Brainwave power, brain/IQ boosters, memory boosters, an analytical booster and more. Some of these are claimed to have shown efficacy in treating ADD/ADHD. 

I also buy Inspire3 products. Probably the best one is their Subliminal360 program, which allows you to build your own visuals with phrases and photos that are flashed in the background (long enough that your conscious mind can pick up on it but it’s not distracting) on your computer while you work or surf the net.

You be the Judge


You can find products and some free demos on my Product Reviews page. Try the shortened demo versions and judge their efficacy for yourself.

From my years of experience and recent weeks of researching current findings, subliminals that are starved of supraliminal effects are a scam, while supraliminal-rich recordings (that include audible or visual affirmations, brainwave entrainment, and any combination of supraliminal hybrids) are not a scam.

I hope you found this post educational in a general way. My next post, Part 2, will cite sources and sort out some of the details or questions you may have conjured up while reading Part 1. My blog after Part 2 explains why we want to influence our subconscious beliefs to begin with. Over the long run, my blogs will review about more products that work to give you a happy, smart, empowered brain.

Thanks for being patient during this overview. I always welcome your comments and questions.

Wishing you positive productivity,

Rori O’Hara


  1. Marley Dawkins

    I really the tv series Madmen, and some of the things you have said here about it are fascinating, particularly because i was explaining this exact point of subliminal messages in the show to my friend not long ago.

    It really is an interesting piece of predictive programming to brainwash people to purchase products. We all know that Don Draper could sell anything to anyine, and not only just make them buy it, but make them happy to do it 🙂

    great work here Rori!

    • Rori O'Hara

      Thanks for bringing that up, Marley. I’m pretty sure if I were to watch reruns, I’d find Tom Draper using predictive programming–or, as psychologists would call it, Above Threshold Level of consciousness priming. Thanks for understanding my point: If you want to influence someone, don’t bury a message Below Threshold. Just prime them ATL.

  2. Amberlee

    Great post and I want to support you in your recommendation of BrainEv products. I have been using their MP3’s for the last three weeks, and it has transformed my life. Three weeks ago I was distressed as everything I had been striving for had changed leaving me with no idea of what I wanted from my life or what direction to do in. To be honest, I was lost. Now, I know exactly what I want, and that’s because I am listening to my heart and not being confused by the logic of my brain. I have also stopped seeking the approval of others and doing the things I want to do because I want to do them. It’s awesome!!

    • Rori O'Hara

      Isn’t it amazing what those BrainEv products can do? They have certainly kept me on task, too, Amberlee! Thanks for the comment :))

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