Priming: Everything Affects You

Look around. What do you see? Perhaps some posters on the wall. Some flowers in the window. A spectacular view outside. People around you, dressed in different clothes.

Whatever it is that surrounds you, it will affect you more than you might believe. Everything evokes associations in out minds that have an effect on what we feel and think. And in the end what we do and how we decide. These associations are often drawn without our conscious awareness. This is when the fantastic and fascinating phenomena of priming hits us. It means that everything we see, hear, feel, sense and smell, affects our forthcoming thoughts and feelings and behaviors. It is equally fascinating and equally complex. Fascinating because it shows us how easily persuaded we can be. Complex because it is sometimes contradictory.

Let’s go deeper into priming. You will learn what it is, and how it can be used to drive positive behaviors.

In one study, the researchers wanted to examine how one little change in the environment in at coffee room, could change behavior. In this case, it was giving money to the collection box. The little difference in the environment was the poster on the wall. Biweekly, the poster showed a pair of eyes. And the other weeks, it showed a flower. The difference in the collection box was huge. During the weeks when the staff was, metaphorically, observed they gave more money than during the weeks when the flower was seen on the poster (what’s that, if not flourishing!). Another study examined how priming in form of a question could affect future behavior. Participants in a study were asked a simple question: if they intended to read a book for pleasure in the coming weeks. A control group had another question, not related to future behaviors. At time for the follow-up, several weeks later, the results showed that more people that were asked about future reading also had been reading more in the recent weeks.

Lots and lots of factors affect our behavior. Priming is one of them. The mere poster on the wall makes you more or less willing to engage in specific behaviors. And a simple question can make you change your behavior. Imagine how you can persuade both yourself, your friends, family and relatives, and your customers or co-workers, with the help of priming.



Bateson, M., Nettle, D., Roberts, G. (2006) Cues of being watched enhance cooperation in a real world setting. Biology Letters. Vol. 2. 412–414

Fitzsimmons, G, J., Levav, J. (2006) When Questions Change Behavior: The Role of Ease of Representation. Psychological Science. Vol. 17. 207–213