PrimingOpen Access

Priming

Our decisions are shaped by memories recalled from things just seen or heard

Images, words and even smells open up memory pathways that are then used as mental shortcuts, influencing any decision we then make.

Bargh, Chen & Burrows (1996). Automaticity of social behavior: Direct effects of trait construct and stereotype activation on action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71(2), 230.

The study

Setup

34 people were split into 3 groups and each told to unscramble a list of either rude, polite or neutral words. After, they were told to see the researcher, who was engaged in a fake discussion with a peer. They were then timed with how long it took before they interrupted.

Results

63% of those primed with rude words interrupted within 10 minutes, compared to only 18% of the polite group.

Study graph

Key Takeaways

Prime with words that highlight the positive emotional effect of using your goods or services. For example, Spotify could prime users of its Discover Weekly playlist by using words that highlight its uniqueness or repeat gift-giving benefits.

Takeaway image

Combine with images Coca Cola created an advert in Italy called ‘Open the happy can’ that primed potential buyers with a simple smile that was revealed upon opening. This was done in order to create an associative link between happiness and drink consumption, as well as providing a means of positive feedback for the consumer. 

Takeaway image

 Keep it subtle. Prime too aggressively and the effect will weaken, or even lead to an unwanted Contrast Effect, where we’ll subconsciously reject and seek out opposites to the prime.

Takeaway image
Takeaway image
Priming

Priming

Our decisions are shaped by memories recalled from things just seen or heard

Images, words and even smells open up memory pathways that are then used as mental shortcuts, influencing any decision we then make.

The study

Setup

34 people were split into 3 groups and each told to unscramble a list of either rude, polite or neutral words. After, they were told to see the researcher, who was engaged in a fake discussion with a peer. They were then timed with how long it took before they interrupted.

Results

63% of those primed with rude words interrupted within 10 minutes, compared to only 18% of the polite group.

study graph
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Risk Aversion
We don’t like uncertainty and generally stick to what we know
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