Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers use sensory integration model to understand unconscious priming

Date:
January 24, 2014
Source:
Carnegie Mellon University
Summary:
Priming, an unconscious phenomenon that causes the context of information to change the way we think or behave, has frustrated scientists as they have unsuccessfully attempted to understand how it works. But, recent failures to replicate demonstrations of unconscious priming have resulted in a heated debate within the field of psychology. In a breakthrough paper, Carnegie Mellon University researchers use a well-established human perception theory to illustrate the mechanisms underlying priming and explain how its effects do not always act as predicted.

Priming, an unconscious phenomenon that causes the context of information to change the way we think or behave, has frustrated scientists as they have unsuccessfully attempted to understand how it works. For example, researchers have found that hearing aging-related words causes people to walk more slowly, or holding a hot cup of coffee while talking to another person heightens feelings of interpersonal warmth. But, recent failures to replicate demonstrations of unconscious priming have resulted in a heated debate within the field of psychology.

Related Articles


In a breakthrough paper published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, Carnegie Mellon University's Roberta Klatzky and J. David Creswell use a well-established human perception theory to illustrate the mechanisms underlying priming and explain how its effects do not always act as predicted. Klatzky and Creswell describe and adapt a model of inter-sensory interaction -- how multiple senses combine to form perception -- that will give scientists a new and clearer avenue to investigate priming in the future.

"We began to think about social priming as just another way that our senses interact," said Klatzky, the Charles J. Queenan, Jr. Professor of Psychology who holds additional appointments in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC).

Klatzky and Creswell use a basic sensory integration model in which each sense gathers information about the physical world through a channel; i.e. vision takes in photons of light, hearing takes in sound waves, etc. The information coming through these various pathways then comes together in the brain. Each input source produces a "bid" for the value of what is being experienced, and the bids are combined to create the whole perceptual result.

For example, when we stir coffee in a mug, we knock against the sides with the spoon and hear the "clink." Both senses of touch and hearing contribute to our impression that the mug is made of some hard material. The situation in social priming is that sources of information are combined in rather surprising ways. If holding that hot-coffee-filled mug in our hand signals "warmth" to us while we are introduced to someone, we might perceive that person to be socially warmer than the social interaction alone would suggest.

To apply the model to priming, Klatzky and Creswell extend it to include additional bids from indirect sources, including memory and heuristic inferences made by "rule of thumb." They explain indirect bidding as it relates to several classic priming studies, including how words unrelated to action but synonymous for elderly, such as "Florida," "old" and "lonely," might cause individuals to walk more slowly. The concept of "elderly" is aroused, and it causes a heuristic bid on a related dimension, such as self-perceived energy resources. Priming "elderly" leads to a reduced estimate of available energy, which directly affects walking speed. Variations in whether this happens may result because people interpret the prime words differently, or because some individuals' perceived energy levels are unaffected, or simply because their walking speed is determined by something like hurrying to the next appointment rather than the words they heard.

"Our approach is to understand how the basic processes work, in order to account for the inconsistencies," Klatzky said. "Because, as scientists, once you understand the underlying causes, you are gifted with control over when effects occur and when they don't."

Creswell, associate professor of psychology and member of the CNBC, believes their inter-sensory interaction model provides a significant advance to research on social priming.

"We are constantly being primed by our environment, yet there is significant debate in the field about whether primes can influence our behavior in meaningful ways, particularly because a couple of recent studies haven't been able to replicate established priming-social behavior effects. Our model provides one of the first accounts depicting when you would expect primes to affect behavior, which directly addresses the vigorous priming debate in the field," he said.

Acclaimed science writer Wray Herbert championed Klatzky and Creswell's novel approach to priming in a recent piece in the Huffington Post, calling it an "insight into the mess."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Carnegie Mellon University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. R. L. Klatzky, J. D. Creswell. An Intersensory Interaction Account of Priming Effects--and Their Absence. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2014; 9 (1): 49 DOI: 10.1177/1745691613513468

Cite This Page:

Carnegie Mellon University. "Researchers use sensory integration model to understand unconscious priming." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140124161241.htm>.
Carnegie Mellon University. (2014, January 24). Researchers use sensory integration model to understand unconscious priming. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140124161241.htm
Carnegie Mellon University. "Researchers use sensory integration model to understand unconscious priming." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140124161241.htm (accessed October 24, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Friday, October 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother Getaway: Beaches Turks & Caicos

Working Mother (Oct. 22, 2014) Feast your eyes on this gorgeous family-friendly resort. Video provided by Working Mother
Powered by NewsLook.com
What Your Favorite Color Says About You

What Your Favorite Color Says About You

Buzz60 (Oct. 22, 2014) We all have one color we love to wear, and believe it or not, your color preference may reveal some of your character traits. In celebration of National Color Day, Krystin Goodwin (@kyrstingoodwin) highlights what your favorite colors may say about you. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

First-Of-Its-Kind Treatment Gives Man Ability To Walk Again

Newsy (Oct. 21, 2014) A medical team has for the first time given a man the ability to walk again after transplanting cells from his brain onto his severed spinal cord. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins