The Hot and Cold of Priming

The Hot and Cold of Priming

Psychologists are divided on whether unnoticed cues can influence behavior

By Bruce Bower, 11:07 AM May 3, 2012

It’s prime time in social psychology for studying primes, a term for cues that go unnoticed but still sway people’s attitudes and behavior.

Primes have been reported to influence nearly every facet of social life, at least in lab experiments. Subtle references to old age can cause healthy college students to slow their walking pace without realizing it. Cunningly presented cues about money nudge people to become more self-oriented and less helpful to others. And people holding a hot cup of ...

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