A longish tl;dr conclusion of Srull & Wyer trace

Social Priming is in the news again. Well, Pashler et al published a critique of a recent money-priming paper, and Neuroskeptic wrote it up. So, I figured I would advertise for my Srull & Wyer trace from last spring, where I follow citations forward from Srull & Wyer (1979) – the Ur-Donald paper (and, possibly along with Higghins Rholes & Jones 1977, one of the papres that started the social priming area). I’m still working on a manuscript for this. Not so easy when you use non-traditional (for psychology) methods. (Plus teach too much).


I got a tweet message from Michael Inzlicht asking for the TL;dr (or, take-home message as he said). It isn’t that easy. No tweet-size take-home really. But, I thought I should try to summarize a little bit about what I have learned.

First, I think priming happens – when the priming is strong, relentless and conscious. Srull & Wyer had participants unscramble an awful lot of hostile sentences, and the more they unscrambled, the more they judged Donald to be hostile. The effect was similar for kind, but somewhat weaker. There is nothing subtle about this. What people did not guess was that the rating of Donald had anything to do with the sentences.

I’m much more doubtful about the subtle primes. The few instances, the oblique influence chains, the outside awareness primes. The difference in means there are smaller. In fact, sometimes they seem more like published null results than anything else. But, with only 11 studies in total, and just a handful doing subtle primes, there isn’t much I can say.

But, putting it differently –I think Srull & Wyer would replicate. I’m guessing those that show films or pictures might (but am less certain), and I have big doubts about the subtle/outside consciousness would do so.

Few other interesting things:

The early papers being inspired by Srull & Wyer don’t really work on extensions, rather than, in essence saying “oooooh, look at this cool paper. Wonder if we can adapt it for our own purposes).

The number of participants in each cell is very small in general, so most of the experiments are underpowered.

Standard deviations are only reported in one of the 11 extension papers. It is also the only paper that report effect sizes. It is also never cited… But, there are also a few papers that publish the F-table, which actually is nice.

When I try the R-index and p-curving, it appears that there is over-reporting of significant results, but there may be some evidential value in the lot (but it is so heterogeneous, it is hard to tell).

It is also surprising how quickly the subtle primes dominate.

Some of the papers make me sad. So much careful work, such low power.

Others irritate me with their handwavey confidence, noice inducing methods, and certainty in pronouncing results that, for all I can see, is analyzing noise.

So, shorter: I believe what happened right before will influence how you see the next thing, even if you don’t think they go together (a kind of pathdependence), especially if the next thing is kind of ambiguous. Especially if the former thing is kind of strong and conscious. But, I severely doubt the more subtle kinds as a general effect.

About asehelene

... because if I'm in a room with a second person, I want to be reasonably sure I'm the crazier one.
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