The typical human being probably thinks that he or she is not affected by subliminal messages because they either do not work or are illegal. Neither of those assumptions are entirely true. By definition, the word subliminal means "below the threshold of consciousness." The threshold of consciousness is the dividing line between something that can be processed by the conscious mind and something that enters the subconscious mind without any such processing. A subliminal message is not intense enough to produce a sensation but has sufficient intensity to influence the behavior and mental processes of one's mind. There are many ways in which a suggestion can be delivered to the audience, and you will see some such methods discussed in the advertising section of this site. When an individual is told to do something, he or she generally thinks about the positive and negative consequences, and then decides whether or not it is a good idea. This is done in the conscious mind, where the individual is aware of the suggestion he or she is being given. The decisions the conscious mind makes are based upon the knowledge and reasoning skills one has developed through experience and education. The subconscious mind does not have these reasoning skills, and thus has no ability to distinguish right from wrong, or judge the information it receives. When a suggestion enters the subconscious mind, it is taken as the truth and stored for future reference. For this reason, the strength of subliminal messages has virtually no boundaries, and can be dangerous when used improperly. These are being controlled by governments around the world to an extent, however we are still vulnerable to subliminal influence.
Currently, not much is being done to curb the use of subliminal messages in advertising and daily use. In Australia and Britain, the use of subliminal advertising has been banned with severe consequences for those who disobey the strict laws. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States will now revoke a company's broadcast license if the use of subliminal messages is proven. Subliminal message usage has also been banned for all members of The National Association of Broadcasters. In a Nevada court case, the judge ruled that the First Amendment's protection of freedom of speech and press does not extend as far as subliminal messages (Pratkanis 200). Because they are not speaking to a person in his or her conscious mind, but rather in a subliminal state, neither "speech" nor "press" accurately describes the nature of a subliminal message. All of these laws are steps toward protecting our vulnerable selves from these deceiving messages, but how does one really tell when something is a subliminal message? There are techniques to distinguish an embedded message from its surroundings, but there is no "formula" or conclusive way to always detect one. If you look at the various types of subliminal messages (see advertising section), you may see that some are indistinguishable to the human eye and require special equipment to set them apart. How would one ever tell if a message were being flashed at a rate of one three-thousandth of a second on the screen at a local movie theater? Due to this elusive nature of subliminal messages, the current legislation needs some revision to adequately address these dangers.