Exploring the Feasibility of Subliminal Priming on Smartphones

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  • Charlie Pinder
  • ,
  • Jo Vermeulen
  • Benjamin R. Cowan
  • ,
  • Russell Beale
  • ,
  • Robert J. Hendley

Subliminal priming has the potential to influence people's attitudes and behaviour, making them prefer certain choices over others. Yet little research has explored its feasibility on smartphones, even though the global popularity and increasing use of smartphones has spurred interest in mobile behaviour change interventions. This paper addresses technical, ethical and design issues in delivering mobile subliminal priming. We present three explorations of the technique: a technical feasibility study, and two participant studies. A pilot study (n=34) explored subliminal goal priming in-the-wild over 1 week, while a semi-controlled study (n=101) explored the immediate effect of subliminal priming on 3 different types of stimuli. We found that although subliminal priming is technically possible on smartphones, there is limited evidence of impact on changes in how much stimuli are preferred by users, with inconsistent effects across stimuli types. We discuss the implications of our results and directions for future research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMobileHCI '17
Pages (from-to)21:1-21:15
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 4 Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes
EventMobileHCI 2017: 19th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services - Vienna, Austria
Duration: 4 Sep 20177 Sep 2017
Conference number: 19


ConferenceMobileHCI 2017
Internet address

    Research areas

  • mere exposure effect, mobile, nonconscious behaviour change technology, smartphones, subliminal priming, Smartphones, Subliminal priming, Mere exposure effect, Mobile, Nonconscious behaviour change technology, MERE EXPOSURE, SEMANTIC ACTIVATION, STIMULI, mobile, AFFECTIVE DISCRIMINATION, AWARENESS, SELF-ESTEEM, HABITS, IMPLICIT, BEHAVIORAL GOALS, mere exposure effect, EMOTIONAL STROOP TASK, smartphones, nonconscious behaviour change technology

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