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Chapter 10

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McGill University
PSYC 473
Mark Baldwin

PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects The same stimulus gets interpreted differently because it fits equally well into two, nonoverlapping categories  The way in which it is categorized is determined by what we are ready to see and what concepts have been made accessible Many of the social behaviours we observe are open to such multiple interpretations; they can be categorized in alternative ways with equal likelihood  And often these potential interpretations are quite distinct and lead to drastically different implications  The interpretation that is chosen can be determined simply by whatever applicable concept happens to be accessible at the moment One way in which the interpretation of behaviour is determined by accessible constructs is that the behaviour is drawn toward, or assimilated into, a perceptually ready interpretation An impact can be exerted on perception and judgment, even if one does not realize a concept has been triggered, does not see the actual triggering event, or does not realize there is any bias/ impact on one‟s judgments and evaluations  Priming effects/accessibility effects Priming: The Temporary Accessibility of Mental Constructs A concept held in mind can be triggered by a stimulus in the environment, and once triggered it is now ready to be used by the mind to help to categorize and interpret the stimuli that greet the perceiver  Idea is that a mental construct can be “charged” or made accessible so that it has a relatively favored status in comparison to other concepts  The momentary charge attained by a concept being triggered in memory is not permanent  Strength of the charge is dependent on how recently the concept in question has been encountered, how frequently the concept in question has been encountered, and how strongly the activating stimulus is able to trigger the category/concept in question  If the charge is strong enough, the concept has attained a sufficient level of activation/accessibility that it can be said to have reached a response threshold Even if the charge has not accumulated to the point where it has reached the response threshold… PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects  The charge is accumulating below the threshold, so that it will take less and less additional stimulus input for the concept to be triggered This triggering of a concept in the moment – with the concept being accessed by the mind‟s attempt to make sense of an external stimulus and being temporarily pulled from LT memory – is priming  Stimulus that causes the concept to be triggered is known as the prime The Priming of a Construct: Producing Temporary Accessibility What is accessible in your mind is partly determined by what you have been exposed to in your environment  Not only is the concept that you have seen or heard triggered (primed), but the activation spreads to related concepts, making these concepts accessible as well  Accessibility is evidenced by how quickly these concepts come to mind, so that “butter” springs to the tongue after thinking about bread because the concept of “butter” has attained heightened accessibility Spreading Activation The accessibility of a concept is determined by exposure not only to that specific concept, but to words or events associated with that concept (semantically related concepts)  As one concept is charged, that charge spreads along the associative network – triggering the related concepts to which it is linked, and thus priming these associated concepts as well  Through priming, and spreading activation along an associative network, information available in memory has now attained a heightened state of accessibility even if it has not been directly primed by a stimulus in the environment Neely  Participants were faster to respond to the related concepts than to the unrelated concepts  When people are exposed to a concept, this concept (and associated ones) become accessible, allowing them to interpret and categorize new, related stimuli more efficiently The thoughts that come to mind when we see a person should include a whole host of behaviours and traits that are linked to that person (or to our impression of that person) Priming in Everyday Life 1. Commercials flashing words at viewers subliminally 2. People repeatedly reading sentences that describe hostile acts PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects 3. Experimenters explicitly asking people to read words that represent a concept Moskovitz and Roman  Day to day inferences about others operate as primes  Snap judgments people make – the spontaneous trait inferences (STIs) they form in quickly and effortlessly describing others – serve to activate or make accessible the very concepts that have been inferred STI is an inference formed without a perceiver‟s awareness or intent – one that explains behaviour in terms of traits STIs are self generated primes, ones produced via the natural course of making sense of the world To test the ecological validity of priming research is to examine whether concepts become accessible through seeing image of people who suggest the concept  Illustrated that seeing images of people and actually meeting people from a particular group can lead the concepts associated with that group to attain heightened accessibility and that these concepts can influence what people subsequently attend to and what types of judgments they form Fitzsimons  Power of images as primes showing that pictures of pets trigger the concepts associated with a given animal  Evidence that sometimes concepts may be triggered in everyday life by categorizing a person (or pet) according to his group membership One less obvious way is the result of trying not to think about that concept Wegner and Erber  Attempting not to think about a concept – which they call thought suppression – requires one actually to hold the unwanted thought in the unconscious mind, in order to prevent the thought from entering consciousness Illustrate that often it matters not how the concepts are made accessible, so long as they attain a heightened state of activation and that heightened state of activation makes the concept perceptually ready Retrieval and Accessibility When we perceive or think about a concept/person/object, the act of focusing attention requires that we understand, label, and categorize what we have focused on PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects  Requires retrieving relevant information from memory Exposure to a concept – either through its contemplation in the mind or through a physical encounter – leads automatically to the retrieval of the concept, and associated concepts, from memory  Accessibility of a concept Multiple concepts and meanings may be associated with a single stimulus, and not all of them need to be retrieved when attention gets focused on the stimulus  Retrieval of any association to a concept takes time, and that each association to a cue has its own retrieval distribution  What concept becomes accessible, and what response is elicited, are essentially determined by a race between associations  Whichever construct or association is retrieved more quickly will be what becomes accessible and determines the response a person elicits What is more accessible will vary from person to person, and within the same person from situation to situation When we retrieve a concept from memory through having recently been exposed to a stimulus associated with that concept, the concept is said to have temporary accessibility What is temporarily accessible will change as we move from one situation to another and encounter different stimuli that retrieve different concepts from memory Types of Temporary Accessibility Attitudes Automatic activation of affect (attitude accessibility) occurs when the presence of an object leads to the activation of positive or negative evaluative responses that are linked to that object  If an attitude is accessible, one should be faster to respond to a new target that has similar valence  Having just seen a snake, for instance, I should be faster to respond to a spider Chen and Bargh  If valence if an object is automatically activated (i.e., attitude, accessibility) by the presence of the object, then this should make people faster to respond in a manner consistent with the attitude  Reasoned that pulling something toward the self is associated with liking things, and pushing something away is associated with disliking PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects  Participants responded faster to positive (vs. negative) words when asked to flex the arm (to move the lever toward them when a word appeared), but responded faster to negative words when asked to move the lever through arm extension (to move the lever away from them when a word appeared) Fazio  Weak feelings and attitudes (ones that are not strongly held) are not triggered by the mere presence of an object Roskos-Ewoldsen and Fazio  The stronger an attitude toward an object, the more likely that object was to capture attention when briefly flashed at people as part of a larger stimulus display  Attitude strength thus seemed to have an impact on degree of accessibility when the target item was present Bargh  Any object triggers an evaluation, regardless of the strength of the attitude Emotions Niedenthal  Happy people were faster to recognize words related to happiness, and people with the concept of anger made accessible were faster to recognize words related to being angry  Increased accessibility of an emotion spreads to concepts associated with these emotions, thus increasing the speed with which such concepts can be recognized  Ambiguous stimuli are now ready to be perceived in a manner consistent with the accessible emotion Goals A goal, once triggered, remains accessible even after people stop consciously trying to regulate the goal Chartrand and Bargh  Goals can be implicitly activated and are capable of directing cognition  Participants with primed impression formation goals had higher clustering scores and recalled a greater number of behaviours during the recall test  Very same pattern of responding was found when people were merely exposed to goal relevant words as when people were explicitly asked to adopt a goal Hamilton PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects  Recall for information was better when participants were asked to form an impression than when they were explicitly asked to remember the behaviours Bargh and Barndollar  Goals can be primed: Participants exposed to achievement goals during the initial task were more achievement oriented (and performed better) on the task performed with the partner than those primed with affiliation goals (Who apparently diverted time they could have spent achieving on the task to helping the other person) Higgins  A strategy (“Regulatory focus”) for pursuing a goal can also be triggered  Strategy that regulates goal pursuit through a focus on approaching a desired state is called promotion focus  Strategy focused on avoiding an undesired state is called prevention focus  Whether a goal is framed with an approach or an avoidance regulatory focus will actually alter how you go about pursuing the goal Forster  Preconsciously triggered strategy  Arm flexion is compatible with the goal of approach, because to approach something means to bring it closer to one‟s body  Arm extension is compatible with avoidance goals because to extend one‟s arm‟s is to engage in a pushing away motion, consistent with what one does when trying to avoid something  People with a promotion focus pressed the button with greater force when they were flexing an arm while people with a prevention focus pressed harder when they had to extend an arm Mindsets Mindset  Asking people to solve a specific task created a related cognitive orientation that facilitated solving the task at hand but hampered solving unrelated tasks Higgins and Chaires Interrelational constructs  Idea being that once such a construct was made accessible, the cognitive orientation described by this concept would now PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects be accessible and be more likely to be used in the future when new stimuli are encountered  By interrelational constructs, the types of relationships between objects/people that are created when we use words such as “or” versus “and”  Even a mindset as abstract as thinking about things as belonging together can be made accessible, so that people are ready to “see” future events as things that can belong together Dunker candle problem  Told to affix the candle to a wall in such a way that the candle burns properly yet does not drip wax on the table or floor  The priming of the different mindsets facilitates performance on the task by promoting the ability to see the tacks and box as separate entities  People primed with “and” as a grammatical connective were more likely to solve the Duncker candle problem than people primed with “of”, because priming “and” created a mindset that promoted thinking about objects as separate entities Gollwitzer  There are unique mindsets associated with how people go about pursuing goals and that these mindsets can be primed just as easily as goal content Deliberative mindset  A cognitive orientation in which people are evaluating and selecting a goal from among many alternative goals that could possibly be pursued at a given point in time Implemental mindset  People are concerned with specific planning on how to pursue or implement a chosen goal Deliberative mindset participants ascribed deliberative actions to the main character, from contemplating courses of action to seeking advice  On the other hand, implemental mindset participants had their characters plunge into action The Decay of Temporary Accessibility Concepts can be made accessible and that this accessibility spreads to associated concepts Neely  Accessible constructs have an impact on how fast people notice related words a quarter of a second later Higgins, Bargh PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects  Excitation transmission model proposes that the accessibility of a construct is like an energy cell that can be charged to various degrees Dissipation of accessibility effects depends on how strongly activated the construct is  The time it takes to retrieve a concept from memory and thus be able to apply it to judging some stimulus is directly linked to how strongly activated that concept is, or, in the language of the model, how strong the excitation level for the concept being retrieved happens to be  If one has recently been exposed to a concept, its excitation level will be high; it will be strongly accessible; and it will win the race to capture the stimulus against other potential constructs that could also fit Recency of Concept Activation Srull and Wyer  Concepts recently primed are more accessible than those primed earlier  Even in the absence of new priming, activation fades as the stimulus that triggered the concept is no longer a “recent‟ event  The accessibility only seemed to be strong enough to influence judgment when the judgment was made immediately – when the prime had been recently encountered. An hour later, accessibility ahd faded Frequency of Concept Activation Amount of excitation and the duration of the accessibility are connected not only with what concept has recently been encountered, but with how often that concept is encountered  The more frequently one encounters the primed concept, the stronger the accessibility and the longer the duration of its heightened accessibility Accessibility was greatest when measured immediately, and when a concept had been activated numerous times in the past  Frequent priming led to effects that persisted through an hour, and beyond:  The effects are sometimes detectable even after 24 hours  Whereas the recent prime faded quite quickly, the frequently primed concept had strong initial effects, and these survived an hour and at times a day The Interaction of Recency and Frequency PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects If accessibility decays over time, and if decay rates are not uniform, it could be that even though the frequently primed construct “hostile” is less accessible than “playful” immediately after you have seen the playful behaviour on TV, the decay rate associated with a frequently primed construct may be slower than the decay rate of the recently primed construct Higgins  When the delay was brief (15 seconds), the recently primed concept was more accessible and guided judgment  When delay was of a longer duration (2 minutes), the frequently primed concept was now more accessible and guided judgment  “After a sufficient delay, the frequent construct will be at a higher level of action potential than the recent construct given its slower rate of dissipation”  The decay function is not uniform because the level of excitation is not merely tied to how long since the priming event has been encountered, but how often it has been encountered A Caveat to the “Frequency of Exposure Increases Accessibility” Rule Liberman and Forster  Rather than the typical effect that semantic concepts decrease in accessibility as time passes, an accessible goal increases in accessibility until it is used  But once one has had the chance to pursue and attain the goal, the accessibility of the construct is release if one uses the construct (attains the goal), one loses the accessibility Rather than leading to increased accessibility describing colors in a second painting (i.e., using the concept) led to decreased accessibility – but only for some people  This happened only for the people who suppressed the use of colors on the first task and then had the chance to use colors on the second task  Giving expression to their unwanted thoughts (being allowed to use color concepts) satisfied the goal of using those thoughts, and accessibility was reduced  People who had been denied the opportunity to satisfy the goal persisted in having these concepts accessible Accessibility Effects The basis for the impression was a reliance on whatever concepts just happened to be sitting in wait at the top of the perceivers‟ heads, without their realizing that this was the basis for the impression PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects  Their impressions were not based on an analysis of the information, but on fairly effortless processes Assimilation Assimilation is said to occur when people lean on activated knowledge about a construct, using it as an interpretive frame for subsequent information  When knowledge we have about an actor‟s behaviour (observed actions) is used to interpret the actor and make inferences about the actor‟s personality (“Influences of effects on origins”), the traits implied by the behaviour are used as “data through which we learn to know about the origins”  When knowledge we have about an actor is used to interpret his behaviour (“Influence of origin on the effect”), a perceptually ready construct provides the meaning that is ascribed to a subsequent behaviour Accessible constructs (1) can be used to interpret behaviour without awareness of its influence and (2) can have an impact on the impressions of people other than the people whose traits served to make the concept accessible Misattribution  One attributes an accessible concept – or the feeling of perceptual readiness, perhaps a feeling one cannot even consciously detect or define – to some person who is not responsible for the concept‟s heightened “charge” One would fail to recognize that the true cause for accessibility was a discrete priming event unrelated to the target of judgment to whom the accessibility of the concept was now being attributed The Experimental Paradigm: Priming Task and Judgment Task Higgins, Rholes and Jones  Priming task o People are incidentally exposed to information – in order to make associated concepts accessible  Judgment task o Where people learn about and report impressions of a person described as having performed an ambiguous behaviour that could be characterized in at least two nonoverlapping ways  The concepts made accessible in the first task are relevant to the possible nonoverlapping impressions that might be reached PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects  Having been exposed to traits in “study 1” affected which of the two nonoverlapping ways the ambiguous behaviour was interpreted  If participants had been exposed to the words “reckless, “conceited”, and so on in the firs task, they would see Donalt as more reckless than adventurous, more conceited than confident and so on  Trivial exposure to these concepts determined how people reacted to Donald, without their realizing that their judgment was being influenced at all  Perceivers assimilate judgments of people they observe to match accessible constructs The Four A’s of Assimilation: Applicability, Ambiguity, Assertibility, and Awareness Applicability Applicability of the primed concept to the stimulus/target/person that is being categorized and judged is a question of how relevant the accessible information in the mind is relative to the information we are attempting to understand  Accessible information exerts an impact on our judgment only if the person we are judging is behaving in a fashion that is relevant/applicable Bruner  Accessibility increases, less stimulus input is needed for that category to be used and a wider range of stimuli will be captured by the accessible category  The stimuli being judged must first be identified as having features that at least make the item relevant to the category Higgins  Applicable primes shaded the type of judgment made regarding Donald‟s behaviour  This difference in judgments of Donald did not emerge when nonapplicable concepts were primed  People do not “see” the concepts that are accessible to them in all places they look; they only see them in the relevant places  Accessibility effects are truly linked to the specific constructs that are primed  Behaviour must be relevant and applicable to the accessible concepts not in their affective tone, but in the meaning they suggest PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects  Research participants primed with disrespectful did not see Donald as disrespectful if his behaviour did not fit it, nor did they come to see him as negative in a general sense It may be the case that the range of stimuli/behaviour captured by a prime does not extend to all behaviour, it is also the case that the stronger the accessibility, the wider the range of behaviours and stimuli that will be captured and be deemed as relevant Higgins and Brendl  Applicability o In some sense an absolute thing; reckless/adventurous behaviour will never be seen as applicable to the concepts of “shy,” “satirical,” “grateful,” or “disrespectful” o On the other hand, there are perhaps numerous behaviours that might be seen as relevant to the concept of shyness, dependent upon just how ready one is to see that trait in others o Judgment of applicability is not solely based on the features of the stimulus, but on the strength of the excitation of the accessible construct  When a stimulus was labeled “extremely vague”, the strength of the activation compensated for the weakness of the stimulus  The more accessible the construct, the more likely the vague behaviour was assimilated into the construct  Accessibility and applicability determine whether assimilation occurs Ambiguity  An accessible construct will work only when the person being judged behaves in a manner that is somewhat unclear  The person‟s behaviour must be either ambiguous or vague  Accessibility effects are dependent on the stimulus information being somewhat open to interpretation  When we are forming impressions of people whose traits are so evident in their behaviour that their behaviour impels one and only one interpretation, then accessibility of a construct will not matter much at all Assertibility One factor that determines what we will assert about a person whose behaviour we have observed is the quality of the stimulus information PSYC473 Chapter 10 Temporary Accessibility/Priming Effects  Information about another person‟s behaviour may stray too far from being ambiguous to allow accessible constructs to have an impact on our impressions  Ambiguous information can stray to increased clarity or uninformative Ambiguous information is information that suggests multiple possible alternative interpretations – but at least it has possible interpretation Uninformative information does not suggest any particular interpretation  If the behaviour of a person we observe is uninformative, then we may feel a constraint on our willingness to assert an impression that is consistent with an accessible construct Another factor is whether we perceive a social constraint that does not allow us to express a particular thought or feeling  We need a license to speak our minds and some situations clearly revoke that license In order for accessible information, they must feel that it is warranted to use such information – that they have a license to do so  Concerns over licensing can initially constrain the impact accessible constructs have on judgment  A feeling that the use of accessible constructs is warranted and people can assert whatever they wish may subsequently free these accessible constructs and allow assimilation to occur Once people become convinced others see them as fair, or they become secure in their own sense of themselves as fair, they now feel no obligation to censor their biases and stereotypes from influencing their judgments  People make judgments consistent with accessible concepts only after they have first established credentials that would seemingly allow them to get away with a behaviour, secure in the knowledge that they have a license to judge and act In the absence of either diagnostic information about the candidates or ambiguous information about them participants should be unable to assert any preferen
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