5. bargh - Psychological Inquiry 2003, Vol. 14, No. 3&4,...

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THE NOMINEES Why We Thought We Could Prime Social Behavior John A. Bargh Department of Psychology New York University Susan Fiske (this issue) is right on about the “discom- fort” some articles cause—but not just in readers! Some- times (as in our case), they discomfit the authors 1996, Experiment 1) revealed differences that were quite large in the behavior of those participants primed to be rude versus those primed to be polite: 63% of the former group but only 17% of the latter group interrupted an on- going conversation when given an opportunity (and rea- son) to do so. At the time, the size of the effect surprised us, because the size of these effects on behavior were much larger than those of previous priming effects on so- cial-perceptual variables such as impressions. Even after replicating the effect three times (at the stereotype rather than single-trait level), we were in no rush to publish, wanting to be very sure of it first. And so it came as a great and happy relief when Ap Dijksterhuis and Ad van Knippenberg (1998; and then others) began doing related research that conceptually replicated ours. We need not have worried, as it turned out—the ef- fect has since proven to be very robust: It has been ob- tained with more than 20 different stereotypes and 25 2001). And although we might have performed the ini- tial studies, it was Dijksterhuis and his colleagues who sopainstakinglymappedoutthemediatorsandmodera- torsofthebehavior-primingeffectandTanyaChartrand whotookitintothedomainofnaturalisticsocialinterac- tion and also showed how the effect was related to the long-standing literature on mimicry and behavioral and I (Bargh et al., 1996) just happened to be first. Which brings up two questions that the journal edi- tors asked us to address: What caused us to do those first studies, and why were there so many subsequent ones? As Fiske suspected, the zeitgeist was in our case a big part of the answer to both of these questions. There were several converging reasons for why we designed and conducted experiments attempting to prime social be- havior. First, I had just finished a review of the extant social psychological priming and automaticity literature (Bargh, 1989) and, in the course of that review, had fo- cused on the extent of direct automatic influences of the environment on thought, judgment, and behavior. The evidence clearly showed the importance of one’s cur- rently operating goal or purpose as a mediator of one’s responses (i.e., judgments and behavior) back to that en- vironment. Automatic, environmentally triggered ef- fects on social cognition, then, seemed to be restricted to input processes, not output processes; at least that is what I had to conclude based on the available evidence. However, soon after I finished that chapter there oc-
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This note was uploaded on 08/12/2008 for the course PSY 301 taught by Professor Pennebaker during the Summer '07 term at University of Texas at Austin.

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5. bargh - Psychological Inquiry 2003, Vol. 14, No. 3&4,...

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