Pearson BTEC National Applied Psychology: Book 1 Revised Edition

Key concept 4: Cognitive priming Content area A1: Cognitive approach Specification terms Associative priming We process a stimulus more quickly (or recall it more easily) because we earlier encountered a stimulus that is o¡en paired with it. Cognitive priming We process a stimulus (word, image, object, etc.) more quickly when we see or hear the stimulus (or a related one) rst (the ‘prime’). Cognitive scripts See page 20. Repetition priming We process a stimulus more quickly (or recall it more easily) because we encountered it earlier. Semantic priming We process a stimulus more quickly (or recall it more easily) because we earlier encountered a stimulus related to it in meaning (semantics = meaning). What is cognitive priming? Two examples of cognitive priming are cognitive scripts (see next spread) and different types of priming. When you see or hear one stimulus (the ‘prime’), this affects your response to a later stimulus (you usually process the later stimulus faster). The prime triggers a network of related concepts in memory, so that when the second stimulus occurs, activation is quicker (examples are given below). Cognitive priming occurs below your level of awareness so you do not know your response has been in«uenced. Types of cognitive priming Repetition priming When you encounter the prime, you process it more quickly when you see or hear it again later than you otherwise would have done. Example Imagine you overhear the word avocado in someone’s conversation. This word is the prime. If you hear it later that same day (or see the word, or see an actual avocado), you notice (process) it more quickly than you would have done if you had not been primed earlier. Semantic priming ‘Semantic’ refers to two stimuli meaning the same thing or having similar features. You process a stimulus faster because you earlier encountered a prime that was similar in meaning. Example If you see or hear the word computer, it is easier to recognise or recall the word laptop later – you process laptop faster because its meaning is similar to the prime. Associative priming The prime and the later stimulus are associated but not semantically. They may be usually paired together in everyday experience. Example What do you think of when I say sh? There’s a good chance you would think of chips. The two are so o¡en paired in our culture that they are closely associated in memory (no doubt the image primed you anyway!). If you are exposed to one you are more likely to later recognise or recall the other. An example of how cognitive priming works You can think of cognitive priming as ‘mentally setting you up in advance to behave in a certain way’. Some psychologists believe this could explain how adverts affect our behaviour. Imagine watching TV adverts that promote snacking as fun. The adverts prime you (i.e. in advance, before you actually do anything) to associate snacks with something positive (fun). You then get to eat various snacks – healthy and unhealthy ones – and you eat quite a lot of them. Does this mean the cognitive priming affected your behaviour? Not in itself. We would have to compare you with people who did not see the adverts (or who saw non-foodrelated adverts). Jennifer Harris et al. (2009) investigated this and found that students who were primed by adverts ate more snacks than students who were not primed by adverts. Imagine this Your teacher asks you to carry out a very simple task. All you have to do is unscramble some mixed-up sentences. You get them all right. You leave the classroom thinking, ‘That was too easy. What was it all about?’ You don’t know it, but your teacher isn’t interested in how you did on the task at all. Instead, she’s timing you to see how long it takes you to leave the room. She’s done this with all the students in your class. It turns out you walked a lot slower to leave the room than some of your classmates did. Why? There could be many reasons, but here’s an interesting fact. All of the students did the same task, but there were two versions. In one version, some of the words in the sentences related to being old (bingo, retired, wrinkled, etc.). In the other version the words were neutral (thirsty, clean, private, etc.). Guess what? You got the ‘old’ version. Like you, all your classmates who got the old version were also slower to leave the room. Sounds hard to believe? John Bargh and his colleagues (1996) did this experiment and got this exact finding. Making links to the key assumptions Assumption: The brain can be compared to a computer Priming is a good example of how the computer analogy works. For example, in repetition priming: the prime is the input; triggering of related concepts is the processing; recognising the same stimulus quicker next time is the output. Assumption: Behaviour is a product of information processing Explain how cognitive priming relates to this assumption (see page 10). 18 Unit 1: Psychological approaches and applications Copyright: Sample material