Subliminal visual cues are words, pictures or symbols which are unidentifiable in someone's conscious.
Conducted by Professor Samuele Marcora in collaboration with colleagues at Bangor University, the research discovered that athletes undergoing endurance exercise who were presented with positive subliminal cues, such as action-related words, including 'go' and 'energy', or were shown happy faces, were able to exercise significantly longer compared to those who were shown sad faces or inaction words.
The words and faces appeared on a digital screen - placed in front of the athlete - for less than 0.02 seconds and were masked by other visuals, meaning they were unidentifiable to the participant's conscious.
This research is the first to demonstrate that subliminal visual cues can directly affect performance during exercise. Additionally, it confirms that the perception of how much effort someone thinks they are using can be altered during exercise. This can then have a knock-on effect on their overall endurance capacity.
Professor Marcora is currently exploring ways in which this research could open up new possibilities for athletes to improve their performance during competitions by using technology, such as 'smart glasses', to provide positive subliminal cues.
'Non-conscious visual cues related to affect and action alter perception of effort and endurance performance' (Samuele M. Marcora, University of Kent, School of Sport and Exercise Sciences; Anthony W. Blanchfield and James Hardy, Bangor University) is published by Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. It is available at:
For further information or interview requests contact Katie Newton in the Press Office at the University of Kent
Note to editors
Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.
Kent has been ranked: top 10 for overall student satisfaction in the 2013 National Student Survey; 20th in the 2014 and 2015 Guardian University Guide; 28th in the Sunday Times University League Table 2013; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.
In 2014 it received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.
The University is worth £0.6 billion to the economy of the South East, with its students contributing £211 million to that total, and directly or indirectly supports almost 6,800 jobs in the region (source: Viewforth Consulting 2009-10).
In the last Research Assessment Exercise, Kent placed 24th out of 159 UK institutions for its world-leading research, while 97% of its academic staff work in schools or centres where the research is rated as either internationally or nationally excellent.
Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, it is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.