In the Eye of the Be'Older: The effects of subliminal intervention on elderly self-perception

Elderly people can have their health and self-perception improved with exposure to subliminal ideas of positive elderly stereotypes.

Image: Benidorm Bastards/NBC

Image: Benidorm Bastards/NBC

Published in the journal Psychological Science, this study worked with 100 older individuals aged between 61 and 99. Participants were split into four groups and exposed to one of these interventions each week for eight weeks:

  • Implicit positive intervention
  • Explicit positive intervention
  • Implicit + explicit positive intervention
  • Implicit + explicit neutral intervention

Participants given the explicit positive interventions had to perform writing and imagination exercises about healthy, positive older people. The implicit positive group were shown lightning fast words describing healthy old people, such as ‘creative’ and ‘spry’. These flashing words appeared and disappeared so quickly that they could only be registered by the subconscious. And the ‘neutral’ group performed these tasks too, but with neutral, unevocative language instead.

The only group to show any response was the implicit group, the group exposed to positive ideas outside of their conscious awareness. This group had increased positive self-perception and even increased health proxies such as balance. Further, these positive effects lasted for three weeks after the intervention ceased.

The causation chain from positive words, to state of mind, to improvements in physical health, is not well understood. An author of the paper study suggests further investigating this use of subliminal information to influence physical well-being.

Story source: Science Daily

Research paper: B. R. Levy, C. Pilver, P. H. Chung, M. D. Slade. Subliminal Strengthening: Improving Older Individuals’ Physical Function Over Time With an Implicit-Age-Stereotype InterventionPsychological Science, 2014; DOI:10.1177/0956797614551970