Moderators In Priming Research'S Consequences.

1873 (4 pages)
Download for Free
Important: This sample is for inspiration and reference only

Although such findings suggest subliminal priming could cause engagement in many unintended acts (Macrae & Johnston, 1998), one cannot simply take these results at face value. The influence of priming is continually influenced by a variety of other factors that may be external (exogenous) and internal (endogenous) that were controlled for in Bargh’s research (Macrae & Johnston, 1998). Such moderators can alter whether priming leads differences in action. Introducing leaking pens rather than normal pens as an exogenous moderator, thus increasing the cost of helping behaviour, eliminated the priming effect. Furthermore, the introduction of a time goal eliminated the helping priming effect (Macrae & Johnston, 1998). Consequently, this indicates how prime to behaviour relationships are far more complex than Bargh’s study would suggest. These moderators make it difficult to establish that priming effects work everywhere, every time and with every individual (Cesario, 2014). If they are unable to do so, one might naturally question the practicality of such research.

For this reason, this essay shall focus on moderators, discussing how they limit the practical consequences of priming research in the form of real-life interventions. Moderators shall be reviewed in religious stereotype priming, reflecting how they limit the potential for rehabilitation programmes. Although Bargh’s study focused on stereotype priming, moderators exist in other priming relationships also; such as the priming of health cues on subsequent food behaviour. These limit the practical application of this priming research also. Nevertheless, we should not discredit the practicality of priming research entirely. Both depressive and anxious symptoms can be reduced with priming treatment. By priming religion, schemas are activated which contain the widespread stereotype that religious individuals are nicer and more cooperative (Shariff, Willard, Andersen & Norenzayan, 2015). This can cause people to act in line with such concepts, increasing levels of prosocial behaviour. This has been empirically demonstrated in several studies where religious priming led to increased distribution of money to a stranger (Shariff & Norenzayan, 2007), charity donations and cooperation (Preston & Ritter, 2013) and willingness to volunteer in positive causes (Sasaki et al. , 2011).

Practically, understanding that priming of religion can increase pro-social behaviour, given its stereotypes, allows for potential programmes, such as rehabilitation programmes, to utilise this for those who have committed a crime in real life environments (Stagnaro, Arechar & Rand, 2018). However, such practical applications cannot occur without understanding the moderators of this relationship. These studies and, indeed, most studies to date have been in Western, Christian contexts where the prosocial behaviour is explicitly encouraged in religious teachings (Miyatake & Higuchi, 2017). Studies beyond the western cultures in Japan (Miyatake & Higuchi, 2017) and with middle eastern Muslims (Aveyard, 2014), have failed to replicate the prosocial effect of religious priming to extend the literature in these areas. Beyond western cultures, the strong stereotypes of religion and prosocial behaviour may not be as explicit thus such stereotypes may not be activated for people to act in line with (Miyatake & Higuchi, 2017).

Or, for a mostly Muslim dominated culture, religious sentences may not be sufficient to activate religious cognition (Aveyard, 2014). Hence, this exogenous moderator can limit practical application of religious priming for rehabilitation programmes as recent research suggest it unlikely that there would be effects beyond the typically tested Western culture. Moreover, an individual’s religious belief moderates these effects. Inconclusive evidence for religious priming on non-religious individuals (Shariff & Norenzayan, 2007) and a meta-analysis of 92 religious priming studies concluded there were no consistent effects to those who were non-religious (Shariff, Willard, Andersen & Norenzayan, 2015). Self-Relevance is a moderator here where activated associates being relevant to self or ongoing behaviours can, in turn, affect behavioural consequences, a highly reported moderator in the stereotype priming literature (Wheeler, DeMarree & Petty, 2014). In this context, the religious primes appear to act on the situational activation of intrinsic beliefs rather than on society-wide stereotypes (Shariff, Willard, Andersen & Norenzayan, 2015). Religious belief moderates whether the prime effects behaviour so it cannot be concluded primes would be effective in producing pro-social behaviours in whole populations regardless of existing beliefs.

No time to compare samples?
Hire a Writer

✓Full confidentiality ✓No hidden charges ✓No plagiarism

Finally, predisposition to prosocial behaviour has been shown in DRD4 gene susceptibility. Those without this gene susceptibility were not influenced by religious priming (Sasaki et al. , 2011). Overall, these moderating individual differences limit the practicality of religious priming interventions for they would not reliably prime pro-social behaviours in other cultures, non-religious and those with different gene susceptibilities. We can also see how moderators have limited the practicality of priming research in eating behaviour. Exposure to health-related cues has been researched as a potential way to reduce consumption of food with high energy content. (Buckland, Finlayson & Hetherington, 2013) found when presented with a temptation cue vs a diet cue significantly less chocolate was consumed. Their later study confirmed diet images significantly reduces energy intake compared to control (Buckland, Finlayson, Edge & Hetherington, 2014). A study using dieting adverts and non-dieting adverts as cues revealed, once again, an overall significant condition effect with fewer M&M consumptions in diet priming conditions (Versluis & Papies, 2016). Taking these results in isolation, it may suggest the practical application of priming therapies for obesity or diabetes. Nevertheless, if we explore the studies further we see moderators of the relationship between priming and food choice that may limit the application of such research. For example, some studies have controlled for appetite in participants by providing set lunches (Buckland, Finlayson & Hetherington, 2013) or instructing them to fast before lunch and in-between lunch and test (Buckland, Finlayson, Edge & Hetherington, 2014). A meta-analysis of studies concluded controlling for appetite gave larger effect sizes (Buckland, Er, Redpath & Beaulieu, 2018).

As such control is not present in real life environments, where appetite varies, this reduces the predictability that food priming with health-related cues will always provide such a pronounced effect on subsequent behaviour in real life environments. When hunger was measured, research found hunger to result in more fruit selections following priming compared to control (Forwood, Ahern, Hollands, Ng & Marteau, 2015). This highlights how appetite moderates the relationship between the cue and healthy eating behaviour, potentially because hunger may translate into motivation where priming activates positive associations to the functional value of such a food choice under this deprivation (Veltkamp, Aarts & Custers, 2008).

Overall, we see how hunger moderates the relationship between health-related priming and action. If we look further at the samples of these studies, we also see the individual difference of restrained vs unrestrained eating also acts as a moderator. In all the studies above, the resulting significant food behaviour was only found in restrained eaters (Buckland, Finlayson & Hetherington, 2013), (Buckland, Finlayson, Edge & Hetherington, 2014) or priming had a greater effect on restrained eaters (Versluis & Papies, 2016). A recent meta-analysis on these studies and 22 others from 1996- 2017 concluded there were indeed more pronounced effects of food priming on those who were restrained eaters (Buckland, Er, Redpath & Beaulieu, 2018). As did a review of unrestrained vs restrained eaters research (Polivy & Herman, 2017) increasing the validity of the meta-analysis conclusions. The suggested mechanism for this is that restrained eaters possess both enjoyment and weight control goals. These are mutually exclusive, but weight control cues reactivate weight goals for controlled food intake even in tempting environments (Buckland, Er, Redpath & Beaulieu, 2018). Those with weaker weight goals, the unrestrained eaters, do not have such conflict so food intake is less determined by the environmental weight control cues (Buckland, Er, Redpath & Beaulieu, 2018). This highlights how priming will not always lead to reduced energy intake. The endogenous moderator of goals alters the relative importance of these environmental weight control cues altering food behaviour following priming. This highlights how these interventions would not target the whole populations because the relationship relies on weight goals. Overall, these critics do indeed confirm the notion that we must consider the moderators that could exist in priming research when exploring practicality.

The internal state of hunger and greater food-related goals moderate the health cue priming effects leading to differences in food choices accordingly. Thus, it may seem that this body of research has the potential for an effective intervention but in its current state risks only helping a subset of individuals. More research must be done to understand such moderators before priming research in this area can have practical application. This is not to suggest that priming studies cannot provide any kind of therapeutic application. Secure attachment priming as a way of alleviating depressive and anxious symptoms has found promising results. This intervention works by introducing individuals to cues that activate concepts of love, comfort and safety (Gillath, Karantzas & Fraley, 2016) to prime individuals to feel security (Gillath & Karantzas, 2018). Participants allocated to priming with secure attachments a control condition then later received text cues over the following few days.

Results showed significant reductions in reported depressive and anxious mood (Carnelley, Otway & Rowe, 2015). To further develop the practicality of this research, a similar procedure was completed on clinical outpatients, the sample such an intervention would actually target. It found repeated primes move people to greater security and significantly reduce anxious and depressive symptoms in this sample also (Carnelley, Bejinaru, Otway, Baldwin & Rowe, 2018). Another study in China also found these positive effects of attachment priming on those with depression (Liao, Wang, Zhang, Zhou & Liu, 2017). This highlights the advantage that this intervention would have the potential to work cross-culturally. These results do suggest that attachment priming can be applied outside the lab as a viable treatment, alongside others, to improve outcomes for clinical patients (Carnelley, Bejinaru, Otway, Baldwin & Rowe, 2018).

Nonetheless, this research has only tested short-term outcomes. In real life, for this to translate positively to therapies, the outcomes should be longer lasting but there is currently little research that has tested for more than a couple of weeks (McGuire, Gillath, Jackson & Ingram, 2018). However, Research conducting secure attachment priming over a 4-month time period did significantly reduce security anxiety (Hudson & Fraley, 2018). This can provide support for the longer lasting impact of this treatment. However, we must still consider results in context. Participants did not have clinical diagnoses and the study only studied the effect of subsequent attachment anxiety. Though this is related to mood (Carnelley, Otway & Rowe, 2015), mood was not directly measured for an established, valid relationship to confirm this type of priming could be a practical approach to treating depression and anxiety long term.

Further research must to done to establish longer-term effects but encouraging findings for attachment priming as a clinical intervention have been demonstrated. In conclusion, moderators complicate the behavioural consequences of priming. Moderators of culture, states and individual personality traits have been discussed in the context of religious priming and health cue priming. These moderators can cause effects to be pronounced in only a particular subset of individuals. As a result, the practical consequences, in the form of clinical interventions, of priming research is limited. This being said, the essay has outlined where priming research could be influential in the treatment of depressive and anxious symptoms. Therefore, research of this type can still have valuable practical consequences in certain areas.

You can receive your plagiarism free paper on any topic in 3 hours!

*minimum deadline

Cite this Essay

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below

Copy to Clipboard
Moderators In Priming Research’S Consequences. (2020, July 22). WritingBros. Retrieved June 18, 2024, from
“Moderators In Priming Research’S Consequences.” WritingBros, 22 Jul. 2020,
Moderators In Priming Research’S Consequences. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 18 Jun. 2024].
Moderators In Priming Research’S Consequences. [Internet] WritingBros. 2020 Jul 22 [cited 2024 Jun 18]. Available from:
Copy to Clipboard

Need writing help?

You can always rely on us no matter what type of paper you need

Order My Paper

*No hidden charges