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Subliminal Seduction

3.63  ·  Rating Details ·  186 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
How media affects perception.
Paperback, 205 pages
Published 1974 by Signet (first published 1973)
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Jul 30, 2007 Don rated it did not like it
In fact, this book seduced me when I first read it. I was seeing subliminal messages everywhere. I think I completely bought it all until one day, looking out of a plane window my brain, now trained to see these subversively scribed messages of sexuality, imagined the word "sex" in the clouds below me.

"Ok. Now I get it", I thought to myself.
Oct 15, 2015 Zadignose rated it it was ok
Total pseudo-scientific bunk, and probably dangerous in that it's persuasive if you approach it without skepticism. It will contribute to your tendency towards paranoia if you have such a tendency. But now that I've been reading Freud again, I understand that there's a precedent for speculative musings being presented as proven theory.

Of course, there's also the possibility that some advertising executives gave credence to the same things this author did, and thus there may have been some actual
Osiris Oliphant
if you want to enjoy this book i recommend reading it as satire. the author was a prankster. dont read it looking to become wise to all the microscopic 'death sex babies' subliminals printed on your ritz crackers, and how that might effect your spending habits. because if you cant see the very obvious and undesputedly real death and sex and fear that they are selling you constantly every day of your life, you are already hypnotized. five stars!
Oct 04, 2015 Michael rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Conspiracy theorists, 70s dudes, historians of advertising
Recommended to Michael by: Robert Anton Wilson
There’s a great mystery about this book. It isn’t the mystery of why the Illuminati allowed it to be published when it gives away all their secrets. It’s not the mystery of who’s really controlling the messages that are secretly beamed to consumers. Nor is it the mystery of what techniques you can use to protect yourself from their thought-control.

The mystery is why a serious media researcher like Marshall McLuhan would allow his name to be associated with this crap. More than that, in his intro
Feb 16, 2009 Charles rated it it was ok
Another book that it's hard to judge how to rate. For accuracy as to what subliminal presentation can accomplish, it far overstates the case and the need for concern.

On the other hand, there is little doubt that advertisers are manipulating us constantly. They're just using supraliminal effects rather than subliminal.

There is some interesting reading in the book but be cautious about believing what you're reading.
Apr 07, 2013 Marc rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
I read this book years ago when it first came out. A friend had taken a course in college with the author and he told me about it. I didn't put it down until I finished it-and bought my own copy. Many of the examples are dated and technology today has changed the landscape. But the take-home message remains the same. We are constantly being manipulated by ad copy writers; Political ads especially.
Marc Anderson
Nov 15, 2016 Marc Anderson rated it it was amazing
Alex S
Apr 28, 2016 Alex S rated it really liked it
I'll admit I was skeptical when I started the book, and now, I remain skeptical, at least to some degree. There is however some great intrigue to be had in reading this. Professor Key explores the idea that the media, at the unconscious level (a topic I previously explored through discussion on Jung's writing, a seminal writer in this area), exploits the human psyche to sell its goods.

Professor Key submits that there are subliminal symbols essentially everywhere. Sex's woven into curtains even,
Oct 16, 2015 Mkfs rated it did not like it
Read this back in '92 or thereabouts. Utter, as they say, bollocks.

Oh sure, some advertising creatives may have tried to sneak something in somewhere, and during the 50s there were sufficient attempts at inserting frames into motion pictures that laws were enacted against this sort of thing.

But a) the techniques do not actually work, and b) the evidence that Wilson Key finds are as imaginary as the lyrics found by playing rock LPs backwards (using the ol' belt twist) during the great satanic cu
Adam Cummings
May 26, 2016 Adam Cummings rated it it was amazing
Goddamn brilliant. Written long before the internet, it really makes you consider just how much we are subconsciously stimulated. This has certainly always been something I have been interested in as a writer, an artist, or whatever the hell I am; looking to communicate and appeal to people through different levels of image, sound and language: a goal that is not in the least unique. At any rate, I recommend it, but you do need a cursory understanding of psychology, aesthetics, sexuality, (all t ...more
Mark Austin
May 14, 2016 Mark Austin rated it liked it
- Most books with this rating I never finish and so don't make this list. This one I probably started speed-reading to get it over with.
- Average. Wasn't terrible, but not a lot to recommend it. Probably skimmed parts of it.
- Decent. A few good ideas, well-written passages, interesting characters, or the like.
- Good. This one had parts that inspired me, impressed me, made me laugh out loud, made me think - it got positive reactions and most of the rest of it was pretty decent too.
- Amazing.
Oct 12, 2007 Donald rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Everyone
I first became aware of the use of subliminal suggestion in advertising when a friend pointed out the imbedded messages in the ice cubes of all those liquor ads in magazines. Wilson Bryan Key wrote a series of books on this subject, starting with "Subliminal Seduction." I was fascinated at his detailed analysis of various advertisements, and never grew tired of seeing the word "sex" camouflaged in those ice cubes. For those interested in checking out this topic, a good starting point is to took ...more
Feb 05, 2016 Dr.J.G. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not only worth reading but should be made compulsory, so people get some idea of the manipulation they are subjected to in and by various forms of media and advertisements. In fact news media is not exactly immune either - only perhaps more subtle.

There might be books later and even more extensive on the subject, but this one is really a good one. In a slightly off context, Naomi Wolf's Beauty Myth connects to it - and quite thouroughly well, too.
Feb 01, 2008 Andy rated it really liked it
Is it a fun read? Abso-freakin-lutely. Do I believe a word of it? Nah. But one kind of needs to experiment with fringe ideas at some point in one's life, and Key is as fringe as they come, not to mention, highly entertaining. And Key's brand of fringe is a lot healthier than, say, 911 conspiracy bullshit.
Jan 18, 2012 John rated it really liked it
This was written in 1974. I read it soon after it was published. In those ads of the day I could see all kinds of stuff. Do I believe his premise? HELL YES.

Todays ads may not be as blatant but they do sell status and use touch points to get the message across. I think Madison Avenue has only become slicker. Just watch that little milf handle her HandyMan Mop
Sep 19, 2015 David rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
Read this when I was in public relations and was on my way to teaching public relations and advertising at Kent State University. "Subliminal advertising" was a hot hypothesis at the moment, and this book was one of the reasons why. The author tried hard, but I was not convinced. Students wanted to believe, however. The topic always was good for at least one day of classroom discussion.
Joseph Johnston
May 09, 2013 Joseph Johnston rated it it was ok
I read this stuff as a young grad student ... and when our University brought Key in as a special speaker (and I was in the audience), I hit him over and over again as a total crank 'scientist'. Although my attacks were greeted with many groans in the audience, in the following days many scientific stars on the University staff stood squarely behind me in denouncing this pseudo-scientific fraud!
Oct 02, 2007 Nikki rated it it was amazing
one of the best 70s books i've ever read. WB Key was what randy shiltz is to the AIDS investigation and bob woodward is to watergate. "media sexploitation" is of course far more sophisticated, if not ruthless, today. but this seminal work should be required reading to all humanities/comm arts freshmen.
Nov 04, 2007 LINDA rated it really liked it
Shelves: books
I read this book for a report that I was writing about advertising in my Senior English Class. It was very informative, and the special section in the middle with color photos of advertisements that used subliminal methods was of particular interest!
May 01, 2011 Mel rated it it was ok
Shelves: read-as-an-adult
In the mid-seventies everyone was reading or talking about this book. Personally, I didn't buy into the concept but I did enjoy the "Columbo" episode where Robert Culp used subliminal messages to set up a murder.
Oct 08, 2014 Honeybadger rated it did not like it
Paranoid, poorly researched and supported. OR THAT'S WHAT THEY WANT YOU TO THINK!!! No, really, they only want you to think that because you'd have to be crazy to see that much sexual imagery in ice cubes.
Christopher Miller
Jan 11, 2017 Christopher Miller rated it it was amazing
This book was a literal eye-opener. Who knew that you could see sex everywhere? I had to stop 'seeing' so clearly when I suspected the photo company of putting subliminal messages in an enlargement of a photo of my 15-month-old daughter. The lesson? You see what you expect to see...
Wil Guzman
May 29, 2013 Wil Guzman is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 26, 2013 Koeeoaddi rated it did not like it
Nonsensical book, though it was fun to turn upside down and sideways when it first came out. Here's the Straight Dope's take:
Justo Morao
Jan 12, 2011 Justo Morao rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Es un interesante libro que revela los mitos que existen sobre el mal llamado "mágico" poder de la publicidad oculta en spots comerciales y la publicidad en general.
Nov 20, 2015 Katie rated it did not like it
This "sex-sells" book from the seventies picked up where Vance Packard left off, but some of the "research" experiments it was based on were fraudulent or flawed. Tread carefully, friends!
Karen Black
Jun 22, 2013 Karen Black rated it liked it
I read this book a long time ago when I was Bill Key's student. Entertaining and well-written, but hardly factual.
Denise rated it really liked it
Sep 26, 2014
Norm rated it really liked it
Nov 30, 2015
Debara Zeller
I read this in the early 80's.
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