Category Archives: priming

On Context & Priming

From Reference 1

Part of the paradox of free will is that it not only liberates us by giving us control over our own actions, it also requires us to take responsibility for decisions which we make subconsciously. Thus, it is important to be vigilant in monitoring and understanding ones own psychology, one’s implicit rationale and underlying systematic reasoning so that taking responsibility for all acts is useful in correcting or maintaining patterns of behavior. However, we must also remember that there are things that will effect the way we interact with the world that may lie beyond our awareness. In this sense we must be able to forgive ourselves when those factors play a role in decisions we deem inappropriate in retrospect. Metaphysics aside, there is a great deal of research documenting the effects of context and priming on human behavior. The latest is from a study on how voting location can affect the way people vote1. Specifically, psychology researchers found that those voting on a education tax increase initiative were significantly more likely to vote for the initiative if they were voting in a school. The values (in the table above) indicate that the differences were small, but the statistics indicate that these differences are real.

1. Berger J, Meredith M, Wheeler SC. (2008) Contextual priming: Where people vote affects how they vote. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 105(26):8846 – 8849