Master's Theses


Communication Studies

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


In previous studies regarding subliminal messages, there have been a number of different outcomes from each study. Some studies show that certain subliminal messages have affected people's behavior or motivational state whereas other studies have shown that subliminal messages have not affected people's behavior or motivational state. Cooper and Cooper (2002) conducted a study where they inserted subliminal messages in a television program to see if those messages could affect motivational states (e.g. thirst). The images shown were a coke bottle and the word “thirsty.” Their results showed that the group exposed to the subliminal messages reported a higher thirst rating than the control group. In the present study, a similar approach to that of Cooper and Cooper (2002) was taken. Eighty-five participants were shown an episode of the television program Southpark with subliminal messages inserted throughout to see if motivational states could be affected. In this case thirst was the motivational state that was examined closely. The images used throughout the television program were different than Cooper and Cooper's (2002) study; the images were a picture of a coke bottle and a picture of a person who looked thirsty. A word used as a subliminal message, like "thirsty,” was not used. That was the difference between the two studies. The results did not support Hypothesis 1 and showed that the subliminal group did not change its thirst ratings after exposure to the subliminal messages. The results did however, support Hypothesis 2 that subliminal messages affect motivational states. It was found that subliminal messages appear to work best if the subliminal message being sent is a word instead of an image.


Carol Haggard

Date of Award

Fall 2004

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 2004 Trevor D. Stapp


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