Do Our Expectations Alter Our Perception?


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Behavioral Priming Study… Continued

Priming responses may improve child behavior: Photo by Chuy Morales

Details of the Updated Behavioral Priming Study

The new examination of the 1996 study, published today in the Public Library of Science, included a group of observers being primed, as well as the test subjects.

In one group, the observers were told that the time it took participants to leave the room should be longer following the priming behavior. The other group was told that times would be shorter following the priming.

Doyen provided Decoded Science with this explanation for the variation from the original testing parameters.

After extensive testing sessions trying to replicate the original results, we were dubious about observing such a priming effect on walking speed. Yet we were happy to see that primed participants’ behavior can not solely be explained in terms of self fulfilling prophecy. This means that the prime and the experimenter both play a role in the expression of the primed behavior.

Subliminal Suggestion: Findings In Doyen’s Study

The results from the modification showed that observers who anticipated subjects taking longer to leave the room reported participants taking longer. The observers who expected times to be quicker showed no significant change in the time spent leaving the room.

In Doyen’s view, the study shows a clear conclusion.

Priming alone does not seem sufficient to elicit a particular behavior. Priming, however, seems effective when embedded in the proper social context.

Preconceptions and Influence: Conclusions

The findings from this behavioral priming study do not disprove the earlier Bragh study. Instead, the new findings enhance our understanding of behavior in human beings. It appears that the expectations of a person influence the perception we have of an event, as shown by the observers in Doyen’s study.


Doyen, S., Klein, O., Pichon, C. L., Cleeremans, A. (2012). Behavioral Priming: It’s All in the Mind, But Whose Mind? PLoS ONE 7(1): e29081. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0029081. Accessed January 19, 2012.

Bargh, J., Chen, M., Burrows, L. Automaticity of Social Behavior: Direct Effects of Trait Construct and Stereotype Activation on Action. (1996). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Accessed January 19, 2012.

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