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“Priming” happens when a thought, image, emotion, memory, etc. becomes salient in the mind due to some internal or external stimulus. Spreading activation triggers related concepts in the mind after an initial schema has been primed. The following studies and resources detail experiments in “embodied cognition,” which is the process by which metaphors related to the physical world activate schemas in the interpersonal and social world.
Ackerman, J., Nocera, C. & Bargh, J. (2010). Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgments and Decisions. Science, 328, 1712-1715.
Williams, L., & Bargh, J. (2008). Experiencing Physical Warmth Promotes Interpersonal Warmth. Science, 322, 606-607.
For this assignment, choose from one of the following two options:
Option A: Imagine that you are a professor of social psychology, and you are in the process of designing an experiment. Your task is to devise a clever way of activating a thought/idea/etc. in someone’s mind (without explicitly saying it), which would then trigger the activation of another related concept. This concept MUST involve some aspect of social behavior, and cannot utilize an experimental design that involves simply reading a list of related words. Your write-up must include, in scientific language, an experiment that tests whether your priming strategy will work. Explain how you will operationalize your variables (independent & dependent) and what results you would expect to find. Be sure to explain what spreading activation is in plain English. Your proposal must be scientific, and must describe in detail at least 1 study/experiment that psychologists have performed on the topic (meaning, that you identify and describe the IV/DV conceptually and operationally).
Option B: Imagine that you have been hired as an advertising or public relations consultant. Your task is to find an advertisement that makes use of spreading activation or priming. This could be through imagery, music/sounds, or words that trigger related concepts in the mind. Your task is to draft a proposal, which pitches the technique of “spreading activation” to a company or organization that is involved in public relations, marketing, or advertising. Your letter should be written scientifically, and it should draw on published psychological research findings. Briefly explain how the advertisement you found demonstrates priming, and how that technique would be useful to the company in their core mission. Be sure to explain what spreading activation is in plain English, and be sure to give one specific example of how priming a psychological concept is related to a behavioral outcome that falls within public relations, marketing, or advertising. Your proposal must be scientific, and must describe in detail at least 1 study/experiment that psychologists have performed on the topic (meaning, that you identify and describe the IV/DV conceptually and operationally).
Note: You are NOT designing an experiment to test whether the priming effect will work, you are simply describing an existing advertisement that utilizes priming. Do not describe a new experiment.
Note: Do not confuse priming/activation with classical conditioning or associative learning. If you have questions or want to clarify this, please contact the TAs.
Reminder: all BL assignments should be approximately 500 words in length, and they require independent work outside of class (apart from what is presented in lecture). It is up to you to locate relevant articles. Your paper will be graded using the following rubric: