Have you ever been in a situation where you impulsively felt like making a purchase. So much so that you feel like your mind had already made that choice without you being consciously aware of it? The most likely reason is because you have been affected by priming.
What is priming?
Priming is defined as:
“A phenomenon whereby exposure to one stimulus influences a response to a subsequent stimulus, without conscious guidance or intention.”
In simple terms it means that an external factor in your environment has influenced your behaviour subconsciously, and as a result makes you consciously decide on certain choices or actions. This is a very powerful tools used in nearly all marketing campaigns, advertisement, etc. to influence your decisions.
Priming is very much based on associations that individuals create between words. Take the example below:
After reading these words, you experienced a level of discomfort and unpleasant memories. Your association of these words to previous situations evoke a strong emotional reaction in you. This all happens very quickly and with ease, despite these words just being ordinary and used as an example. The words together may have also given you a mental image of the bananas causing the vomit. Not the most appealing mental picture!
In another example:
If you have recently heard the words EAT, BREAD & JUICE and I ask you to fill in the blank for SO_P you are more likely to say SOUP.
But if you have recent heard the word WASH, WATER & SHAMPOO you are more likely to fill it in as SOAP. This is all using language priming resulting in an individual giving different answers.
Examples in the real world?
There are so many example of priming that affect on us on a daily basis. Have you ever wondered why they always put the flowers in the entrance of the supermarket?
Of course it’s very convenient for shoppers who are buying a loving / apologetic present. But also flowers are an easy way for supermarkets to prime your shopping experience. When you see flowers, you instantly have a range of feelings and associations that spring to mind. One of these being freshness. If you are primed with this, you are more likely to have a positive shopping experience and associate this feeling to the shop you are purchasing from.
Does priming affect everybody?
Yes! Priming can affect us from when we are extremely young to when we are much older. An example of this is an easy technique that almost all stores you have visited will use. By putting certain products at eye level for different consumers.
In the case of you as the adult, they may place items you may use for dinner, spices, fruit on your eye level so that your instant reaction is to buy those things. Furthermore, you will purchase more than you ever intended to. But for your children, they will place chocolates, cookies, cakes and anything a child would want at their eye level. As a result all consumers are primed to buy items that prior to entering the shop, they never even wanted or needed.
Is there a solution to priming?
I would love to say there is a solution, but unfortunately there isn’t. Priming is part of our daily lives and something we have to live with. But being aware of these behavioural stimuli can reduce the effectiveness of them on us as individuals. By doing so we are less susceptible to our subconscious influencing our conscious choices, and allow for more logical decision making.
That's all for now folks...
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