Payton Brown

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Sandra Carpenter

Committee Member

Jodi Price

Committee Member

Jeffrey Neuschatz


Identity theft., Subliminal perception.


Studies have shown 87% of people in the United States can be uniquely identified by only their zip code, gender, and date of birth. These three personal identity elements are not typically considered sensitive information by the general public. The purpose of this study was to develop a method to stop individuals from disclosing personal information that they deem unimportant by using warning messages and subliminal signals to influence their decisions. Warnings have been studied rigorously in real-world situations, but little research has been conducted on warnings in an online context. The use of a subliminal signal with a supraliminal warning may help people comply with the warning message without habituating, and make safer decisions about disclosing personal identity information online. In the present experiment, we compared how warnings affected disclosure rates of personal identity elements when individuals attempted to apply online for an automobile insurance quote. We targeted three personal identity elements that people believe to be safe to disclose, zip code, gender, and date of birth. We also attempted to identify whether subliminal signals could be used to enhance the effectiveness of the supraliminal warning. Unfortunately, we were unable to measure the effectiveness of subliminal signals because of technical limitations of the implementation methods. We did not find that warnings were effective at reducing disclosure rates for any of the three personal identity elements. There were several factors which may have influenced participants' decision to disclose personal identity element.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.