Social Priming, Failed Replications, and Egos

2 02 2013

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a good article on social priming—the effects on our behavior from subtle cues in our social environment. It reviews some of the key studies such as the famous elderly prime makes people walk more slowly finding. There is an appropriately strong focus on John Bargh, whose studies made the effect well known, as well as some of the individuals who have had trouble replicating his results. As it remains today, there is serious doubt about whether the effect is very robust. Instead, there might be some moderators that enhance or weaken the effect that are unknown. If there is anything good coming out of this, it may be that we start begin respecting the publication of failed replications. That will be good for the entire discipline.

Link to the article at the Chronicle.

Image courtesy Flickr user sunnydelishgirl. Licensed under Creative Commons

Brand names and ad slogans produce different effects on behavior

3 08 2011

A post on Mind Hacks pointed me toward a great post on the Language Log blog that covers a recent article on priming in response to brand names and ad slogans. It seems that if you prime using a brand name, you get behavior congruous with that brand’s associations; if you prime with the brand’s ad slogan, you get reverse effects. Here’s the summary from Language Log:

Laran et al. found that when they had people look at cost-conscious brand names like Walmart in an alleged memory study and then later take part in an imaginary shopping task, they were able to replicate the implicit priming effect: people were willing to spend quite a bit less than if they’d seen luxury-brand logos. But when subjects saw slogans (e.g. Save money. Live better.) instead of the brand names, there was a reverse priming effect: now, the luxury-brand slogans triggered more penny-pinching behavior than the economy-brand slogans.

The study authors argue that the “reverse priming” effect is driven by non-conscious processes to avoid bias. In other words, we associate slogans with attempts at persuasion, so the reverse priming kicks in to immunize us against the effect (and actually reverses it). Brand names do not have such an association, so we respond to their priming in congruence with the goals or constructs the brand elicits (e.g. Walmart = spend less).