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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Thinking: Post#7 - Priming

Priming: Exposure to words prepares our brain to act in accordance with the word. In an experiment called the “Florida Effect,” students exposed to words like aging walked slower and more like older people.  This ideo-motor effect influences action by an idea. Such an effect is a powerful influencer on System 1 thinking, creating biases and inaccurate decisions. For example, if you go shopping when you’re hungry, you’ll tend to buy far more than you need. If you watched “Fast and Furious” and then went out to buy a car, guess what kind of car you might buy—a Prius or a sports car? Reverse priming also exists. We smile when we’re amused, and if we force ourselves to smile, we can make ourselves get more amused. The pencil in the teeth experiment was fascinating as was the British “honesty box” experiment (see pp. 54-55). Putting a pencil in your mouth (laterally) makes you smile, which disposes you to laugh and see more humor in a given situation. The Honesty Box at an English university was put there to pay for tea on the honor system. When a picture of eyes was placed over the box, people gave more money (three times as much $!) than when a picture of flowers was placed over the box. Thus, primed by a set of eyes “watching” them, tea drinkers became more honest.

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