January 21, 2005
In May, 1998, Kip Kinkel killed his parents and killed and wounded students at Thurston High School. The "voices" told him to do it. The "voices" told him he was no good. He had major depression for months before the crime. Prozac was prescribed, but he could not stay on the medication. Could Kinkel's depression have been caused by a subliminal training system that programmed him to kill and think he was worthless?
Let us refer to the work of Sohlberg and Birgegard.(1) They did their subliminal activation research at Uppsala, the top university in Sweden. These experiments were done with tachistoscopes. Each group was subliminally influenced by words from the tachistoscope. The words were flashed on a video screen for brief intervals counted in milliseconds.
The subjects were divided into three groups. The words for the control group were "People are Walking" (PAW). This phrase does not affect the emotions. "Mommy and I are One" (MIO) was the positive idea. MIO was "designed to temporarily fulfill unconscious wishes for oneness with the good mother of childnhood." "Mommy and I are Dissimilar" (MIDIS) was the negative idea. These phrases are the ones that were used in standardized experiments by Silverman and others. There may be individual differences in the effect of this phrase.
Psychological tests were administered to each group. The Self-Motehr Similarity test uses two sets of adjectives. The Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) was administered. The BDI can indicate dysphoria in normal people who do not yet have clinical depression. The SASB is a test of memories of how mothers acted toward their children.
There was a series of five experiments totalling 365 subjects. The MIDIS groups had a stronger association between depression and the Self-Motehr Similarity. The SASB has three clusters. These were Ignore, Blame and Attack. The MIDIS groups scored higher in the correlation of Ignore and Blame, but not Attack, with the higher depression score on the BDI. The subjects were associating memories of how mother acted with ignoring or blaming. A person who feels blamed and ignored feels shame. This is what happens in depression. There has to be a problem in communication with some hope of repair for this to happen. The last experiment in this series was modified to investigate more carefully whether the subliminal priming was causing a long term tendency towards depression. The effects on depression were stronger after ten days than after ten minutes or 4 months.
In comparing the experimental groups, those who were influenced by MIDIS scored three points higher on the BDI. Although this is a valid measurement, it was not enough to cause the students to become depressed. There is naturally an ethical limitation on this kind of research The authors note, "It should be noted that the stimulation did not allude to some exotic notion relevant only to groups with deviant personality or clinical problems ..."
Kinkel's experiences with "voices" telling him bad things went on for three years before the killings. His major depression could reasonably be the effect of indiscernable subliminal activation.
Sohlberg, Staffan and Birgegard, Andreas, "Persistent Complex Subliminal Activation Effects: First Experimental Observations," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (2003) 85(2):302-316.
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