Since the late 1950s, the idea that hidden, imperceptible messages could influence mass behavior has been debated, feared, and ridiculed. In Swift Viewing, Charles R. Acland reveals the secret story of subliminal influence, showing how an obscure concept from experimental psychology became a mainstream belief about our vulnerability to manipulation in an age of media clutter. He chronicles the enduring popularity of the dubious claims about subliminal influence, tracking their migration from nineteenth-century hypnotism to twentieth-century front-page news. His expansive history of popular concern about subliminal messages shows how the notion of ldquo;hidden persuadersrdquo; became a vernacular media critique, one reflecting anxiety about a rapidly expanding media environment. Through a deep archive of eclectic examples, including sensational claims in the late 1950s about subliminal advertising, educational technology in the American classroom, mind-control tropes in science fiction, and Marshall McLuhanrsquo;s media theories, Acland establishes the subliminal as both a product of and a balm for information overload.
Social Science, Performing Arts
Film + Video / History + Criticism, Media Studies