March 15, 2022

Priming

Priming is exposing a person to purposeful stimuli in order to influence his or her subsequent conscious or unconscious decisions. Priming is researched, tested, and implemented practically everywhere, with established results: in psychology, marketing, politics, ideologies, thought schools, propaganda, society, retail, technology, branding, hobbies, and leisure, to name a few.

An example of being primed is: when we say white, many of us tend to think of snow. An example of priming is: you have a restaurant and have just introduced a new item, say French cheese. In order to promote this item, in other words to prime your customers to buy it, you hang on the wall a couple of posters of popular French touristic sites and you play some French music. Priming could be olfactory, such as when you step into a mall and is received with the smell of food from a deliberately placed food joint. Priming could be aggressive, such as in marketing and advertising, to the extent that companies can promote and sell items that you do not need at all, rather it is better for you to do without. A company creates an item and then proceeds, by way of priming, to convince you that you need this item and that you must buy it. And you do. A way to do this is to keep exposing you to the sense of self-fulfillment, accomplishment, and completion that another person attained upon purchasing this item.

Unfortunately, priming is often implemented in a harmful way, sometimes being biased and some other times bordering on “brain washing”. An example of biased priming from our current times is this: a war happening somewhere is highlighted and primed, and the audience all across proceeds to react in a certain way. An identical war, ongoing in some other place for years and decades, is highlighted, if at all, in a contrary manner and the same audience is primed to react in a completely different way. Here the oppressed is a victim and the audience sympathetic, and there the oppressed is an instigator and the audience desensitized.

Yet, as with many other “tools”, priming can be used for the betterment of people. An example of positive priming is to go ahead and set your goals for the day, or listen to someone else’s list of constructive goals, and push them front and center. Along this path, it is imperative that educational institutions lead a parallel effort to teach their students how to “un-prime” themselves from harmful priming, and to prime their students to become determinedly supportive, productive, and constructive. This could be done by setting higher goals and presenting it in a compelling manner. Positive priming goes well beyond and above the standard school curricula. As much as the humanities and sciences are important, guiding the students to produce something good out of them is more important. The world needs much fixing, and it is the sacred duty of the educational institutions to produce fixers.