Monday, March 16, 2009

Class Priming

Priming is an interesting, mysterious process. For example, in one experiment subjects were asked to write a description of either soccer hooligans or professors. Afterward they played a game of trivial pursuit. Those asked to describe professors out performed those asked to describe hooligans. In another people were asked to unscramble letters. Afterward they reported the result to those conducting the experiment who (as prearranged) were then talking to someone else. Those who had unscrambled words that concerned aggression or rudeness tended to interrupt the conversation while those whose words were more passive were less likely to.

I think it is likely that priming has a class component. In other words, in real life, subconscious influences probably differ by class. Where this goes, however, I am not sure. The impact of being over affirmed, as so many children of the elite are, works at a more obvious level and leads to a sense of entitlement. Priming, on the other hand seems more subtle and affects not just attitudes but actual performance. As the two examples here suggest, it is not clear that the resulting behavior is admirable or beneficial.

Here is a little experiment. You may have noticed the photo of an elderly person above. Since seeing it, have you been moving slower. Do your aches and pains seem a little more severe?

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