In our modern world manipulators make use of what is known as “priming.” The MSM, sophisticated communicators and various forms of communication can influence your attitude as well as your overt behavior without your ever knowing it.
Researchers and social scientists understand that once a person’s attitude is accessible to suggestion (hypnosis), at that moment your attitude can be used as a guide to some form of action. Anyone that wants to guide your actions and attitudes intentionally, or unconsciously uses subtle influences to form and direct your behavior.
To understand priming mechanisms lets examine some of the research findings.
Priming researchers Thomas and Znaniecki defines how attitude shapes our behavior: “By attitude, we understand a process of individual consciousness which determines real or possible activity of the individual in the social world.”
Researcher Gordon Allport pinpoints the key to control human action: “Without guiding attitudes, the individual is confused and baffled. Some kind of preparation is essential before he/she can make a satisfactory observation, pass suitable judgment, or make any but the most primitive reflex type of response. Attitudes determine for each individual what he will see and hear, what he will think and what he will do.”
A perfect example of the power of priming is described in an article from the Scotsman, UK: DIETERS can be deterred from eating fatty foods like ice-cream by being tricked into believing they were sick after eating them as a child, scientists have discovered. A leading expert in false memories was able to convince up to 40 per cent of people that they had been ill after eating strawberry ice-cream when they were younger.
The volunteers then started to avoid eating that flavor of ice-cream. Professor Elizabeth Loftus, who led the study, said: “While we know food preferences developed in childhood continue into adulthood, this work suggests that the mere belief one had a negative experience could influence food choices as an adult.”
The experiment mirrored the techniques used by Derren Brown, the psychological illusionist, who is able to control people’s behavior and “read” their minds through suggestion, literally tricking people into believing they had a fictional “bad” experience with ice-cream.
Behavioral priming refers to the notion that exposing people to an external stimulus (e.g., a list of words describing old people) activates a mental construct associated with this stimulus (e.g., “being old”), which may in turn affect overt behavior without the actor necessarily being aware of this influence.
“‘seeing is believing’ what the
group tells you to believe.”
Priming is a technique used in cognitive psychology that conditions responses by exposure to the specific stimulus. Word association games use the principle of priming; the shoe is to foot like the hat is to head. When one word, image, sound, or any other stimulus elicits an associated response, priming is at play.
This kind of subtle and negative priming occurs without people’s awareness all day long, every day. How is this possible?
Another good example of priming was demonstrated by Berkowitz and Alioto (1973). Male college students were asked to watch a brief film, either of a prize fight or a football game. Subjects were lead to interpret the contest as either aggressive or nonaggressive.
The subjects who were primed to believe that the sports were meant to be aggressive were more likely to act aggressively toward other people after viewing the materials.
So, priming in general, can be seen as empirical support for the possibility that processes of which subjects are unaware can nevertheless facilitate performance.
According to Jacoby (1983), priming is related to perceptual processing. Priming an audience is a way to increase or influence the speed or accuracy of a decision. It is done by exposing the audience to prior information in a decision context.
Attitudes will be identified sooner because they were partially activated by priming words even before being presented with a concept. Persuasive messages might have more effect on future behaviors by reminding the audience of prior behavior or attitude than by triggering moral or normative pressures.
If those in the targeted audience are not aware of the direct influence of such cognitive priming, they are better able to maintain perceptions of their own freedom. In other words, they are less likely to backlash against the message.
The NY Times published a study using advanced brain-scanning technology to cast light on a topic that psychologists have puzzled over for more than half a century: social conformity.
The study was based on a famous series of laboratory experiments from the 1950’s by a social psychologist, Dr. Solomon Asch: Do people who give in to “group-think” in cases in which they know they are choosing to either believe or do wrong, do so knowing that their choice was wrong? Or did social pressure actually change their perceptions?
The researchers found that social conformity showed up in the brain as activity in regions that are entirely devoted to perception. But independence of judgment – standing up for one’s beliefs – showed up as activity in brain areas involved in emotion, the study found, suggesting that there is a cost for going against the group.
“We like to think that seeing is believing,” said Dr. Gregory Berns, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Emory University in Atlanta who led the study. But the study’s findings, he said, show that ‘seeing is believing’ what the group tells you to believe.
The unpleasantness of standing alone can make a majority opinion seem more appealing than sticking to one’s own beliefs. If other people’s views can actually affect how someone perceives the external world, then truth itself is called into question.