The Priming Effect - Part II

Read "The Priming Effect - Part I"

The Priming Effect - Part

Further studies on associative initiation

In this article, we also deal with investigations from priming research. Priming, i.e. the associative preparation or initiation caused by a stimulus, is sometimes also referred to as seeding or framing.
Although it is not necessary for priming, many experiments work with unconscious primes. Either the priming is subliminal, i.e. subliminal (see when Apple stings IBM ) or the primed person is not aware of the connection between Prime and the following task (Donald or Florida experiment ). And this shows just how much our behavior and our judgments are integrated into an unconscious network of associations.

Now let’s take a look at that. Today it's about the Pygmalion effect, waiting times, willingness to donate, willing to negotiate, sympathy and sequences.


Expectations become reality - the Pygmalion effect

The Pygmalion effect describes a phenomenon that falls within the realm of self-fulfilling prophecy. The name goes back to Greek mythology, in which the artist Pygmalion of Cyprus created an ivory statue that looked like a living woman. Disappointed by living women, he finally fell in love with his work. Pygmalion pleaded with Venus that his future wife be like this statue he created. Venus hears him, his statue comes to life and they live happily ever after ...

The Pygmalion effect describes how our (unconscious) expectation of another person influences our behavior and performance.

Pygmalion with students

In this experiment from the late 1960s, teachers were taught that the performance potential of their students was determined through research. The aim was to determine the 20% of students from whom particularly high performance was expected due to an impending development spurt. This list was communicated to the teachers - however, and the teachers did not know that, the supposedly particularly powerful were selected according to a random process.

After the IQ of all students was measured at the beginning, after 8 months and after one year, it turned out that exactly the 20% of the students who belonged to the group of the particularly gifted due to the lottery decision could increase their IQ significantly more than the rest of the group. 
45% of the children selected as gifted were able to increase their IQ by 20 or more points and 20% were able to increase it by 30 or more points. Incidentally, the strongest increases in IQ occurred in the children who had a particularly attractive appearance. It was also striking that the character of the "highly gifted" was viewed more positively by the teachers. 
Obviously, teachers' expectations of this select group of students resulted in them paying more or different attention to these students and making them more positive overall.

Rosenthal, Jacobson: Pygmalion in the classroom. Beltz, Weinheim 1971

Pygmalion with rats

Another experiment showed that the pygmalion effect even works with rats. Students were asked to teach rats to learn the fastest way to the feeding place through a labyrinth. A group of students were told that they would work with a special group of very intelligent rats. 
Another group of students received information that they should work with a group of particularly stupid rats. The rats in both experiments were actually randomly selected. In this experiment, too, it turned out that the expectations of the students significantly influenced the learning behavior of the rats.

A survey of the students after the experiment revealed that the supposedly more intelligent rats received more attention during the experiment. The students also said with the "intelligent rats" that it was fun to work with these animals, which the other group did not say.

Legewie, Heiner & Ehlers, Wolfram. Knaur's modern psychology. Munich 1992

How long do you wait if you have been primed with courtesy before?

A study by John A. Bargh, Mark Chen and Lara Burrows mentioned in the previous article dealt with the semantic priming of waiting behavior.
After 34 test persons were asked to form meaningful sentences as part of a language proficiency test, they were asked to visit the experimenter in another room to receive a final task. 
There were three groups of randomly selected test subjects. Some were given rather aggressive words, the next more words related to politeness and the third rather neutral words in their word salad. The actual attempt was now to find out the time after which, after completing the first test, the subject interrupted the investigator, who was deep in conversation, to ask him about the final task.

Within 10 minutes, 18% of the politely primed, 38% of the neutral and 64% of the aggressively primed people interrupted the experimenter's conversation with the other person.

Bargh, JA, Chen, M. & Burrows: Automaticity of social behavior. Direct effect of trait construct and sterotype activation on action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1996

Do you drive a different car: 1) after an action film or 2) after a slow romantic love film?

Images of sexy women make men less willing to donate

"Sex sells" is a well-known phrase from the advertising industry, which says that some things can be sold better if they are presented together with sexual content, such as women in bikinis. A priming study published in the Journal of Consumer Research shows that this is not always the case. 
In a series of studies with men between the ages of 18 and 24, the test subjects were shown pictures of sexually attractive women, while a control group looked at pictures of beautiful landscapes. Another control group saw no pictures at all.
As a result, it was found that the people primed by the sexually attractive images subsequently perceived themselves as being more separate from other people and felt less similarities with others than the other test subjects. 
As a direct result, they also showed less interest in products whose proceeds should benefit other people and, moreover, were not as willing to donate as the comparison group. These men were less inclined to give $ 10 to another student (regardless of whether it was a male or female). The sexually primed people were also less willing to buy and wear a t-shirt that was about preserving an endangered species.

Donor organizations are therefore well advised to use recipes other than the sex sells concept for their campaigns.

Xiuping Li, Meng Zhang. The Effects of Heightened Physiological Needs on Perception of Psychological Connectedness, Journal of Consumer Research. December 2014
- source

Does the hardness of a chair change our willingness to compromise in negotiations?

If we are offered a soft armchair the next time we buy a car, we could become suspicious. The seller may actually just want us to be comfortable. Or maybe he knows the results of the following study.

In fictitious negotiations for the price of a car, some of the subjects sat on hard wooden chairs, while the other group was offered a soft armchair. The test subjects, who were sitting on a hard surface, were also tougher in the negotiations and were significantly less willing to deviate from their first offer. 
The people who sat in a soft armchair came much more towards the seller in their offer. They were significantly more willing to submit a second offer and increased their offer on average by almost 40% more than the people on the hard wooden chairs.
In view of these figures, from the perspective of a car salesman, the investment in a comfortable luxury armchair should have paid for itself within a very short time.
- source

Can the temperature of a drink affect our sympathy for an unknown person?

Another study published in Science magazine answered in the affirmative. On the way to the test laboratory, the test subjects were casually asked to briefly hold a drink cup. One group should hold a mug of hot coffee, another group a mug with a cold drink. Afterwards, both groups were asked to assess the personality of another person based on a written description.

The subjects who had previously held a warm drink in their hands were more likely to rate the person as caring or generous.
In another experiment, the test subjects who had held a warm object acted more generously than the control subjects.

In the following video (apparently no double-blind test), this is also examined in a similar sequence (experiment begins after the first minute).

Order influences result

Even the order of questions influences the answers. Previously asked questions can be a priming for the following questions and thus influence the results of the survey. In a study on this, a questionnaire was presented to a group of test subjects, which included the following questions:

“How happy are you at the moment?”
“How many appointments did you have in the past month?”

These two questions were asked in exactly this order, showed no connection. However, if the two questions were mixed up, it turned out that the first question had a decisive influence on the result of the second question. In the second case, respondents rated their happiness as influenced by the answer they had given to the number of appointments in the previous month.

Fritz Strack, Leonard L. Martin, Norbert Schwarz: Priming and Communication: The Social Determinants of Information Use in Judgments of Life Satisfaction. In: European Journal of Social Psychology. Volume 5, No. 18, 1988, pp. 429-442.

The online survey portal SurveyMonkey has also recognized the priming effect in connection with questionnaires. For this reason, the company provides specific instructions on its blog to avoid falsifying results caused by priming. A simple solution is the randomization of the questions, which is made possible by the software of the platform. Since the participants of an examination receive their questions in a different order in this case, the priming effect is at least reduced.

The results of the priming research are always surprising. Some of these examples provide suggestions on what is worth paying attention to in certain situations, such as in negotiations or surveys, in order to make the results usable.
In the next article we will deal with further application options for different areas such as personal development, advice and communication.

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