What are Paraliminals
Scientific Evidence Supporting Paraliminal Technology
by Paul R. Scheele, PhD
Descriptions, Research, and Related Literature
The principles underlying the development of Paraliminal Technology are scientifically based and extensively researched. This document examines the literature on the supporting technologies including Suggestive-Accelerative Learning and Teaching methods, Whole Brain Learning, Imagery, Suggestion, Relaxation, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming.
The amount of literature on each of the above-mentioned subjects is quite large. The intent of this paper is to offer a brief overview of the literature and provide a framework for further understanding. It is not intended to be exhaustive in detail.
Paraliminal learning sessions are audio sessions. Each one presents creative new ideas to help individuals overcome internal obstacles and achieve personal and professional goals. They are unique in their application of the latest educational technologies.
Originally, the prefix “para” came from Greek and means “next to” and “side by side” and gives rise to words like parallel and paragraph.
Also from the Greek is a sense of “moving or going beyond” and that leads to words like paradox.
“Liminal” refers to the “limen” or “threshold” of conscious awareness. The term literally means “beyond the threshold of conscious awareness.”
The term was coined, in part, to distinguish it from “subliminal” which means, “below the threshold.” In psychological literature, subliminal refers to information that cannot be consciously perceived.
Paraliminal learning sessions present the listener with separate messages coming into each ear, but it is beyond the conscious mind’s ability to process both messages simultaneously for more than a few moments. The result is an interesting multilevel communication to different hemispheres of the brain. The listener can choose which ear’s information to attend to, and one’s attention tends to switch from time to time. Consequently, the conscious mind’s experience of the Paraliminal is different with each listening session. Yet, the nonconscious processing mechanisms of the mind (Farthing, 1992) [also referred to as “paraconscious” by Lozanov (1978)] receives the entire message each time.
Primary Learning and Behavioral Change Methodologies
Paraliminal technology can be most readily identified as an application of Suggestive-Accelerative Learning and Teaching (SALT) methodologies. The essence of this set of instructional methods uses an unusual combination of physical relaxation exercises, mental concentration, and suggestive principles. These are intended to expand a person’s mental capabilities while material to be learned is presented dynamically with relaxing music (Schuster & Gritton, 1986).
The basic theory behind SALT is that as humans we operate with unity of our conscious and nonconscious mind. The theory also states that suggestion is the key to using our mental reserves to accelerate learning. The use of SALT techniques, according to Dr. Caskey (1980), “permits information to be absorbed more readily by the individual by bypassing emotional barriers which accompany most learning activities, and it results in a larger percentage of learned material being retained in the long-term memory area of the brain.”
With SALT techniques the resulting learning has been found to be faster and more enjoyable, with high retention rates, while the self-concept of the learner is enhanced (Caskey, 1980).
Paraliminal learning sessions have been designed using the theories and methods of SALT and Dr. Georgi Lozanov’s original works in Suggestopedia—which will be described later in this paper. The result is a collection of unique learning experiences which accelerate the listener past their learning barriers and into new ways of dealing with their personal and professional issues.
The second most significant foundation in the development of the Paraliminal technology is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). Known as “The study of the structure of subjective experience” (Dilts, et al., 1980), NLP is an extension of several sciences. Developed by Dr. John Grinder and Richard Bandler (Grinder & Bandler, 1975, 1976), it has its roots in linguistics, neurology, and psychology.
NLP is a model for understanding the basic processes used by all human beings to encode, transfer, guide, and modify behavior. “Neuro” stands for the idea that neurological processes cause all behavior. “Linguistic” refers to the way that neural processes are represented, ordered, and sequenced into models and strategies through language and communication systems. “Programming” refers to the way internal sensory systems are organized for the achievement of specific outcomes. In sum, NLP is “The New Science of Achievement” (Robbins, 1986).
Paraliminal learning sessions employ NLP technology in several ways. First, in the development and use of special linguistic structures to ensure ideal suggestions are presented. Second, in the creation of specific language patterns to enhance the process of learning and change. Third, in the actual delivery of messages on the sessions. This includes the choice of voice qualities, music phrasing, and tonal marking, as well as the selection of sensory specific language.
SALT and NLP technologies share the common goal of using communication to accelerate the process of human learning and change. Both are equally concerned with both the medium of a communication as well as the message delivered. Both stress the importance of process rather than content. And central to both models is the use of behavioral and educational suggestion.
Paraliminal technology is an application of these two technologies, combined with sophisticated digital audio imaging effects and production techniques. Testimonial accounts of the benefits are plentiful. To give credence to client results, the various components of each technology will be examined in the pages that follow.
The next section will present the elements of SALT. Then the elements of NLP employed in Paraliminal learning sessions will be examined.
Suggestive-Accelerative Learning and Teaching
Professor William James in his essay, “The Energies of Men,” said that very few people live up to their full potential. “As a rule,” he wrote, “men habitually use only a small part of the powers which they actually possess and which they might use under appropriate conditions.”
It wasn’t until much later that a systematic effort in the field of human memory and learning bore out what Dr. James had realized. In the 1960’s the extensive research of Dr. Georgi Lozanov, a Bulgarian psychiatrist, developed a new approach to accelerate learning and use the superpowers of mind. He applied elements of suggestion techniques and relaxation to classroom learning and termed the methods Suggestopedia (Lozanov, 1971). In America these methods have become known as suggestive-accelerative approaches to learning (Schuster, et al., 1976).
These techniques have been shown to be “successful in increasing the amount of material learned in a given time or reducing the amount of time necessary to learn new material in a wide variety of subject matter areas at almost all educational levels” (Caskey, 1980).
Elements of SALT
There are several elements to SALT methods that we will examine in relation to the Paraliminal technology. They are:
Ten interdependent principles support SALT methods as described in depth by Dr. Owen Caskey (1980). They are:
- 1“A comfortable, attractive learning setting increases acquisition and retention.” Paraliminal learning sessions make use of this by encouraging the listener to create just such an environment prior to listening.
- 2“A relaxed state (physically and mentally) enhances learning and retention.” Paraliminal learning sessions induce such states prior to the learning session.
- 3“Bilateral hemisphere input into the brain (whole brain learning) increases acquisition of new material.” Paraliminal learning sessions are recorded in stereophonic 3-D sound, giving independent messages to each ear. (See more on this in the next section on whole brain learning.)
- 4“Simultaneous use of the conscious and unconscious learning (double-planeness) makes learning easier and more productive.” Paraliminal learning sessions have linguistically structured, indirectly suggestive messages to engage the nonconscious mind, while delivering direct suggestion to the conscious mind.
- 5“An organized methodology (components and sequence) overcomes the anti-suggestive barriers which reject or inhibit new learning.” Paraliminal learning sessions deliver specific step-by-step instructions to lead the listener through the learning process.
- 6“Methodology emphasizing didactic, psychological, multisensory, and artistic elements increases learning and retention.” Paraliminal learning sessions make specific requests of the listener. In addition, valid psychological principles are used for content along with 3-D special effects, environmental sounds, and original score music to create a unique internal sensory environment.
- 7“Enhancing of psychogenic conditions focuses concentration, while a musical background relaxes, resulting in increased recall and long-term memory.” Special attention is given to offer strong self-esteem building messages on all Paraliminal learning sessions. The music is originally scored, orchestrated, and performed to create optimal mental concentration. The musical key center, rhythm, and tempos are matched to the speaker on the voice-only track.
- 8“Retention is increased if information is viewed as being creditable and from an authoritative source.” Information disseminated on Paraliminal learning sessions uses testimonials from satisfied users and stresses the legitimacy of the underlying technologies. Also promoted is the credibility of Learning Strategies Corporation and the academic credentials of the Paraliminals’ author.
- 9“A positive and encouraging learning atmosphere increases learning and retention.” Paraliminal learning sessions have been carefully scripted to the subtlest detail to ensure positive wording, solutions focus, and goal orientation.
- 10“Success in learning heightens self-concepts and promotes personal adjustment and self-confidence.” The increments of progress in learning are kept reasonable to ensure success with each listening.
Whole Brain Education
Since the early 1970s, an enormous amount of literature has been written on the subjects of Left Brain, Right Brain and Whole Brain Education. Based on the research on hemispheric specialization, (Benson, 1985), (Watzlawick, 1978), (Williams, 1983), (Segalowitz, 1983), (Springer, 1981), (Clark, 1986), (Blakeslee, 1980), (Porac, 1981), (Corballis & Beale, 1983), (Fadely & Hosler, 1983), Paraliminal learning sessions have been designed to offer independent messages to each hemisphere. This is accomplished through the selection of hemispherically relevant content, hemispherically compatible linguistic structures, and vocally modulated delivery of the messages.
According to research, the left hemisphere’s main function is translation of perceptions into logical, semantic, and phonetic representations of reality. It also serves to communicate with the outside world on the basis of logical analytical coding.
Paraliminal learning sessions deliver into the right ear the message for the left hemisphere, since the ears are neurologically cross wired (Corballis & Beale, 1983). These messages include specific descriptions of linear, sequential processes like the step-by-step procedures of particular NLP change processes and detailed and logical explanations of various concepts and concrete experiences.
The right hemisphere is highly specialized in the holistic grasping of complex relationships, patterns, configurations, and structures. Its associations are nonlinear (via, free associations).
On the Paraliminal learning sessions, the messages given to this hemisphere, through the left ear, follow right hemisphere language patterns. According to Dr. Paul Watzlawick (1978) and Linda Williams (1983), these include: condensations, figurative language, giving bits of the whole, ambiguities, puns, allusions, visual imagery, fantasy, evocative language, metaphor, and multisensory language.
Imagery is perhaps the most potent tool in the process of accelerating learning in humans. Largely underestimated by most educators and learners, imagery holds phenomenal potential for revolutionizing education. More importantly it is an awesome force in directing the process of change.
As Dr. Eric Klinger (1981) puts it, “Clinical evidence indicates strongly…that modifying imagery modified the models or schemata that underlie subsequent behavior.” He goes on to say, “…working on a person’s imagery gives us direct access to the processes necessary for change. It would make imagery techniques among our most powerful techniques for intervening in people’s lives.” (p. 10)
Paraliminal sessions makes full use of imagery in many ways. They employ sophisticated refinements on the instruction of guided imagery. For example, the Paraliminal technology encourages full-sensory imagery, distinguishing associated imagery (as if from your own point of view) from disassociated imagery (as if looking at yourself from a distance) when appropriate (Bandler, 1987).
Music is processed primarily in the right hemisphere (Gordon, 1970). Studies have found that the type of musical background can play a significant role in various learning tasks (Lozanov, 1971), (Bordon & Schuster, 1976), (Schuster & Mouzon, 1982).
Paraliminal learning sessions are produced with all originally scored music, arranged following the specifications outlined by Lozanov teacher-trainer Peter Kline.
The proper creation of suggestion is well outlined in the literature of SALT (Schuster & Gritton, 1986), in the NLP works of Bandler and Grinder (1975, 1977), (Grinder & Bandler 1981), and in the literature on Dr. Milton Erickson (Haley, 1967). Among the considerations used in the development of Paraliminal scripts, one of the most significant was to distinguish between direct and indirect verbal suggestion. In most cases, indirect suggestion is used.
Types of indirect suggestion used in Paraliminal learning sessions include truisms, implied causatives, simple binds, focusing questions, double binds, yes sets, compounding suggestions, and complex contingent suggestions. The importance of employing these techniques of suggestion is that the nonconscious mind follows the instruction without arousing resistance from the conscious mind (Erickson, et al., 1976).
Relaxed states of alertness are critical to the suggestive-accelerative learning experience. Evidence of this is found in much educational research. As Schuster and Gritton (1986) concluded, “Students generally learn better when they are relaxed thoroughly and consistently…than when they are anxious and nervous.” (p. 83)
Consistent with these findings in education (Clark, 1986), as well as with findings in therapy (Grinder & Bandler, 1982), Paraliminal learning sessions rely on creating calm states of mind and relaxed states of body. This is accomplished primarily through suggestion and the use of progressive relaxation (Jacobson, 1957).
Suggestive-Accelerative Learning and Teaching methods are at the cutting edge of human development technology. Paraliminal learning technology is a direct application of the principles set forth by SALT researchers.
In addition to collaborative books on NLP by Grinder and Bandler and their respective writings, other authors have written extensively on the subject (Robbins, 1986), (Lankton, 1980), (Gordon, 1978), (Cameron-Bandler, 1985), (Cameron-Bandler, et al., 1985), (Jacobson, 1983, 1986), and (Meese, et al., 1985) to name just a few. However, this paper will not examine the underpinnings of the NLP technology. Rather, it will focus on where the Paraliminal technology has applied the principles and practices of NLP.
There are three major areas in which Paraliminal learning sessions use NLP technology. These include:
These major areas of application are summarized here.
In their landmark book, The Structure of Magic, Vol. 1, (1975), Grinder and Bandler describe the linguistic structures which prevent and accelerate human communication and change. Ill-formed linguistic structures tend to be wrought with common deletions, distortions, and generalizations. Such language patterns tend to prevent people from gaining access to the rich resources within.
On the other hand, well-formed linguistic structures tend to be goal oriented and shape a positive framework for accessing one’s internal resources (Grinder, 1973). In constructing the scripts for the Paraliminal learning sessions, proper use of well-formed linguistic structures keep the listener goal oriented and in an emotionally positive and optimistic frame of mind.
At times, the language of a Paraliminal session remains “artfully vague” (Grinder & Bandler, 1981) following the patterns of Dr. Milton Erickson. This allows the right hemisphere the maximum room for personalizing the content of the representations made in the mind. This phenomenon based on the “pars-pro-toto principle” (Watzlawick, 1978), lets the right hemisphere have immediate recognition of a totality on the basis of one essential (unspecified) detail. For example, if a reference is made to viewing a landscape from a high vantage point, no reference is made as to what specifically the listener might see, think, or feel from their point of view.
Paraliminal learning sessions also use linguistic structuring to help block the left hemisphere from interfering with the change process. This is accomplished using illusion of alternatives, symptom displacements, and problem reframing. These techniques prevent self-sabotage from the conscious mind. [Such sabotage is often used as a primary justification for the use of subliminal technology in personal development recordings (see Dixon, 1981).]
Specific Change Techniques
Grinder and Bandler have been heralded for eliciting extremely accurate representations of perhaps the greatest change masters of their time. Their models include the work of Virginia Satir of family therapy, Dr. Fritz Perls of Gestalt therapy, Dr. Gregory Bateson of psychology, and Dr. Milton Erickson, M.D. In Dr. Erickson’s forward to Grinder and Bandler’s book on his work (1975), he states, “…it is a much better explanation of how I work than I, myself, can give.”
The Paraliminal learning sessions use many of the actual change patterns described in the works of NLP. Several include reframing, new behavior generation, collapsing realities, anchoring, chaining states, future pacing, stepping into resource, submodality manipulation, and timeline therapy.
Each change technique is described in a step-by-step fashion to the left hemisphere of the listener. The listener is given the opportunity to follow along by filling in relevant content from his or her own experience at each step in the technique.
Delivery of the Message
Vocal variety in the delivery of instructional material has been an integral part of SALT techniques (Clark, 1986), (Schuster & Gritton, 1986), (Lozanov, 1978), (Caskey, 1980). Intonation and rhythm are cited as key variants.
Dr. Erickson brought the art of delivering suggestion to a high level of refinement (Grinder & Bandler, 1981). Paraliminal learning sessions use a melodious, sonorous voice trained by years of clinical experience and voice instructors to be ideal for the application.
(It should be noted that this is a significant distinguishing feature of Paraliminal sessions when comparing them with “hypnotic” self-improvement sessions that rely on boring, monotonous delivery of authoritarian commands like, “sleep!”)
Upon first listening, two independent messages coming into different ears can be confusing. This confusion is actually an integral part of Paraliminal technology. Developed over years of clinical research, Dr. Erickson refined what he called his “Confusion Technique.”
It is essentially a way of modifying the communication in order to “…introduce progressively an element of confusion into the question of what is meant, thereby leading to an inhibition of responses called for but not allowed to be manifested and hence to an accumulating need to respond.” (Haley, 1967, p. 156)
The confusion technique is primarily used to bypass the critical mind. Since the critical/logical mind cannot respond, the nonconscious tends to take over, building up a strong potential to respond. This technique was further developed by Grinder and Bandler in their lecturing style during the mid and late 1970s. It was then picked up and refined as “double-induction” by Drs. Steve Gilligan and Paul Carter in their seminars on Erickson’s work.
Paraliminal learning sessions, by the nature of their dual-voice effect, create the Ericksonian double/induction and confusion phenomena. The resulting positive effects are best achieved when the session is listened to from start to finish. This allows for the progressive introduction of confusion. One of the key reasons why listeners are instructed to create a “special time” for listening to the session in its entirety is to enhance this effect.
NLP “Pacing” techniques are another way that the delivery of the message is enhanced. Pacing is a technique of matching vocal patterns to physiological experiences of the listener (Laborde, 1984). For example, the listener’s breathing rhythms can be paced by the rhythm of the word phrases on the Paraliminal. Another example is to comment on tunnel vision occurring as a person is asked to gaze at one spot on the wall. The effect is the development of profound levels of unconscious rapport (Grinder & Bandler, 1981).
Another NLP technique used in the delivery of messages includes tonal marking or anchoring. This is the process of assigning a nonverbal stimulus to a specific subjective experience. Psychologists as far back as Pavlov in the 1800s understood this as stimulus-response conditioning.
Another technique is to specify all sensory systems—visual, auditory, and kinesthetic—when guiding the imagery of the listener. The resulting “Full Sensory Imagery” is superior to single sensory imaging in its impact on the listeners experience (Klinger, 1981).
The Paraliminal learning sessions rely on the remarkable power and effectiveness of the NLP technology in their script designs and studio recordings. With NLP, Paraliminal technology capitalizes on the opportunity for truly multilevel communication, using both hemispheres of the brain and tapping the nonconscious reserves of mind.
“Human beings possess capabilities of mind, literally beyond genius.”
– Dr. Barbara Brown, physiologist, developer of biofeedback.
“We are only now on the threshold of knowing the range of educability of man.”
– Dr. Jerome Bruner, Harvard University.
Findings in the literature on human development, learning, and behavioral change point to a new era for personal and professional growth. Because of decades of pioneering efforts on all fronts, new vistas are being realized that seemed unattainable a few short years ago.
The commercial educational market is currently a multibillion-dollar industry. Innovators in learning and human development technologies are needed. The challenge is to create brain-compatible learning methods that are cost effective, enjoyable to use, and achieve the necessary results. Learning Strategies Corporation has introduced one such innovation with Paraliminal technology.
When someone approaches a learning situation, as purchasers of audio recordings do, they come with a two-sided mind. As Williams (1983) puts it, “We must encourage them to use it, to develop both types of thinking so that they have access to the fullest range of possible mental abilities.” (p. 190). Paraliminal learning sessions are the only commercially available audio learning programs to do this.
Paraliminal learning sessions apply the latest theories and principles recently discovered to improve the human condition. As research continues, greater understanding of the mechanisms of learning and change will undoubtedly be revealed. Then, what potential can be reached by human beings?
Bibliography and Scientific Evidence
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Bandler, Richard, and Grinder, John. Frogs into Princes. Moab, UT: Real People Press, 1979.
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Cudney, Milton R., and Hardy, Robert E. Self-Defeating Behaviors: Free yourself from the habits, compulsions, feelings, and attitudes that hold you back. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1991.
Dilts, Robert B. Applications of Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications, 1983.
Dilts, Robert B., Hallbom, Tim, and Smith, Suzi. Beliefs: Pathways to health and well-being. Porland, OR: Metamorphous Press, 1990.
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Farthing, G. William. The Psychology of Consciousness. Prentice-Hall, 1992.
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Gordon, H. W. “Hemispheric Asymmetry in the Perception of Musical Chords.” Cortex, 6 (4), 387-398. 1970.
Gordon, F. Noah. Magical Classroom: Creating effective, brain-friendly environments for learning. Tucson, AZ: Zephyr Press, 1995.
Grinder, John, and Bandler, Richard. Reframing: Neuro-linguistic programming and the transformation of meaning. Moab, UT: Real People Press, 1982.
Grinder, John, and Bandler, Richard. Trance-formations: Neuro-linguistic programming and the structure of hypnosis. Moab, UT: Real People Press, 1981.
Grinder, John, DeLozier, Judith, and Bandler, Richard. Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D., Volume 2. Cupertino, CA: 1977.
Grinder, John, and Elgin, Suzette H. Guide to Transformational Grammar: History, theory, practice. New York: Holt, Reinhart & Winston, 1973.
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Laborde, Genie Z. Influencing with Integrity: Management skills for communication and negotiation. Palo Alto, CA: Syntony Publishing, 1984.
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Scheele, Paul R. Natural Brilliance: Overcome any challenge…at will. Minneapolis, MN: Learning Strategies Corporation, 1997.
Schuster, Donald H., and Gritton, Charles E. Suggestive Accelerative Learning Techniques. New York: Gordon and Breach Science Publishers, 1986.
Schuster, Donald H., and Mouzon, D. "Music and Vocabulary Learning." Journal of the Society for Accelerative Learning and Teaching. 7 (1), 82-108. 1982.
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Stress Study of Deep Relaxation Paraliminal
A study was conducted investigating whether the Deep Relaxation Paraliminal (DRP) session affected scores on the pre- and posttest of the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) (Cohen, Kamarck, and Mermelstein, 1983). The results of the study showed that the PSS scores were reduced, suggesting that the DRP practice might be able to aid individuals with stress-exacerbated health issues. (Cordeiro, 2011)
Cohen, Sheldon, Kamarck, Tom, and Mermelstein, Robin. “A global measure of perceived stress.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24 (4), 385-396. 1983.
Cordeiro, Lisa. “The Deep Relaxation Paraliminal as a Practice for Stress Reduction.” Doctoral Dissertation. Argosy University, College of Psychology and Behavioral Science, San Fransisco, CA. (August, 2011).