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Priming

 

Explanations > Theories > Priming

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

Priming is providing a stimulus that influences their near-term future thoughts and actions, even though they may not seem to be connected.

Priming also increases the speed at which the second, related item is recognized.

In effect, priming either introduces new things or brings old thoughts close to the surface of the subconscious, thus making them more accessible and more likely to be used over less accessible (and possibly more relevant) thoughts.

Priming has a limited effect as the thoughts fade back to the deeper subconscious. Typically, primed ideas are effective for around 24 hours.

 

Conceptual priming occurs where related ideas are used to prime the response, for example 'hat' may prime for 'head'.

Semantic priming occurs where the meaning created influences later thoughts. Semantic and conceptual priming are very similar and the terms may be used interchangeably.

Non-associative semantic priming refers to related concepts but where one is less likely to trigger thoughts of the other, for example 'Sun' and 'Venus'.

Perceptual priming, is based on the form of the stimulus, for example where a part-picture is completed based on a picture seen earlier.

Associative priming happens when a linked idea is primed, for example when 'bread' primes the thought of 'butter'. This particularly applies to 'free association' word pairs.

Masked priming occurs where a word or image is presented for a very short time but is not consciously recognized.

Repetitive priming occurs where the repetition of something leads to it influencing later thoughts.

Reverse priming occurs where people realize they are being primed and, feeling they have been biased, over-respond in their choices which are now biased in the reverse direction.

Research

Bargh and Pietromonaco showed some people neutral words whilst others were shown hostile words, very briefly flashed up on a computer screen. Both groups then read about a character with ambiguous behavior. Those who had been primed with hostile words interpreted the behavior as being more hostile.

Example

I take one bite from a chocolate bar. I now desire another bite even more than before I took the first bite.

A stage magician says 'try' and 'cycle' in separate sentences in priming a person to think later of the word 'tricycle'.

I start noticing other cars just like the one I bought.

So What?

Using it

Use a prime subtly so the person does not realize they are being primed, thus influencing them towards a desired outcome.

Be careful of obvious priming which can cause a reverse-priming reaction.

Defending

When you seem to think of something in conversation with someone else, think back to what may have triggered that thought.

See also

Recency Effect, Availability Heuristic, Anchoring and Adjustment Heuristic

References

M
EYER
, D. E., & S
CHVANEVELDT
, R. W. (1971). Facilitation in recognizing pairs
of words: Evidence of a dependence between retrieval operations. Journal of
Experimental Psychology, 90, 227-234
M
EYER
, D. E., & S
CHVANEVELDT
, R. W. (1971). Facilitation in recognizing pairs
of words: Evidence of a dependence between retrieval operations. Journal of
Experimental Psychology, 90, 227-234
M
EYER
, D. E., & S
CHVANEVELDT
, R. W. (1971). Facilitation in recognizing pairs
of words: Evidence of a dependence between retrieval operations. Journal of
Experimental Psychology, 90, 227-234

Meyer and Schvanveldt (1971), Neely (1977), Bargh and Pietromonaco (1982), Marcel, (1983), Draine and Greenwald (1998), Sherman and Kim (2002)

 

 

 

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