Archive for July 12th, 2015

July 12, 2015


Spreading activation

Priming is an implicit memory effect in which exposure to one stimulus influences the response to another stimulus. Studies show that people are faster in deciding that a string of letters is a word when it follows an associatively or semantically related word. For example, ‘nurse’ is recognized more quickly following ‘doctor’ than ‘bread.’ As another example, if the original concept is ‘red’ and the word ‘vehicles’ is primed, people are much more likely to say ‘fire engine’ instead of something unrelated to vehicles, such as ‘cherries.’ If instead ‘fruits’ was primed, they would likely name ‘cherries.’

Priming can also be visual, rather than semantic; if people see an incomplete sketch they are unable to identify and they are shown more of the sketch until they recognize the picture, later they will identify the sketch at an earlier stage than was possible for them the first time. The effects of priming can be very salient and long lasting, even more so than simple recognition memory. Unconscious priming can affect word choice long after the primes have been consciously forgotten. Priming works best when the two stimuli are in the same modality. For example visual priming works best with visual cues and verbal priming works best with verbal cues. But priming also occurs between modalities.

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