The Effect of Language Priming on Behaviour: Can Helpfulness be Unconsciously Manipulated
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The area of research explored in this report is conceptual priming; the objective was to determine if behaviour can be primed using language - specifically words related to helpfulness. A between-subjects design was used so that each of the 60 participants (12 male, 48 female) was primed only once. Participants were unconsciously primed using a word-search puzzle that contained helpful-related, unhelpful-related, or neutral words. In order for the researchers to analyse how helpful or unhelpful the participants would behave, each individual completed a task which involved describing nameless shapes (tangrams) to a separate ‘tester’ individual via a digital voice recorder. The extent to which participants were deemed helpful was measured in three ways: length of time taken to describe the tangrams, number of words used to describe the tangrams, and number of tangrams correctly identified by the ‘tester’. No significant effect of language priming on behaviour was found, nor were there significant effects of gender or length of prime exposure. The results are discussed in terms of possible explanations, limitations of the experiment and motivations for further research.