6. Fort Lee was the birthplace of subliminal messaging

Years after Fort Lee’s film scene had declined in favor of Hollywood, James Vicary, a market researcher, had an idea. At a Fort Lee movie theater in 1957 during a showing of Picnic, he claimed to have used a device called a tachistoscope to project “Hungry? Eat popcorn” and “Drink Coca-Cola” for 1/3,000 of a second every five seconds. He claimed that sales of popcorn at the theater increased by 57.8 percent and Coca-Cola increased by 18.1 percent during the experiment. As a result of this experiment, the CIA published “The operational potential of subliminal perception,” which analyzed the role — and dangers — of subliminal messaging in society.

It turns out, though, that Vicary lied about the experiment and his results. The data set was too small to be significant, and when asked to recreate it, he found nothing significant. The manager of the movie theater even stated that the experiment was never carried out there, and another study by a different researcher found no increase in sales. However, the experiment brought major publicity to subliminal messaging, which would be used as a marketing tactic.