Social priming

Psychologists strike a blow for reproducibility
Thirty-six labs collaborate to check 13 earlier findings.
Ed Yong
26 November 2013

gain-versus-loss framing, in which people are more prepared to take risks to avoid losses, rather than make gains1

anchoring, an effect in which the first piece of information a person receives can introduce bias to later decisions2


Disputed results a fresh blow for social psychology
Failure to replicate intelligence-priming effects ignites row in research community.
Alison Abbott
30 April 2013

Thinking about a professor just before you take an intelligence test makes you perform better than if you think about football hooligans. Or does it?

unconscious thought theory, which is concerned with unconscious decision making, is not the same as intelligence priming


Nobel laureate challenges psychologists to clean up their act
Social-priming research needs “daisy chain” of replication.
Ed Yong
03 October 2012

social priming, the study of how subtle cues can unconsciously influence our thoughts or behaviour. For example, volunteers might walk more slowly down a corridor after seeing words related to old age1, or fare better in general-knowledge tests after writing down the attributes of a typical professor.


Perceptive expectation

Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine

Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine
Barry C. Smith
Oxford University Press, 2007

Perceptive expectation

In the next set of experiments, Brochet invited 54 subjects to take part in a series of experiments in which they had to describe a real red wine and a real white wine. A few days later the same group had to describe the same white wine and this white wine again that had been colored red with a neutral-tasting food colorant.
Interestingly, in both experiments they described the “red” wine using identical terms even though one of them was actually a white wine.

Brochet’s conclusion was that the perception of taste and smell conformed to color: vision is having more of an input in the wine tasting process than most people would think.
Brochet points out a practical application of this observation, which has been known for a long time in the food and fragrance industries: no one sells colorless perfumes any more.

In a second, equally mischievous experiment, Brochet served the same average-quality wine to people at a week’s interval.
The twist was that on the first occasion it was packaged and served to people as a Vin de Table, and on the second as a Grand Cru wine.
So the subjects thought they were tasting a simple wine and then a very special wine, even though it was the same both times.
He analyzed the terms used in the tasting notes, and it makes telling reading. For the “Grand Cru” wine versus the Vin de Table, “a lot” replaces “a little”; “complex” replaces “simple”; and “balanced” replaces “unbalanced”–all because of the sight of the label.

Brochet explains the results through a phenomenon called “perceptive expectation“: a subject perceives what they have pre-perceived, and then they find it difficult to back away from that.
For us humans, visual information is much more important than chemosensory information

Frédéric Brochet
In this experiment the perception of fragrance and taste conformed to color.
This phenomena has been the object of an abundant literature (Maga, 1974, Dubose, 1980, Davis, 1981, Johnson, 1982, Zellner and Kautz, 1990 in the food processing field; and in the wine field  (André, 1970, Williams, 1984).

see also:

Why We Like What We Like
February 10, 2012
Context matters, and so do our attitudes and expectations. My dad used to say that Chinese food tastes better with chop sticks. And he was right. Not because he was snob, or deluded, but because he appreciated that enjoying the food is wrapped up with a way of thinking about it, handling it, chewing it.

Anchoring (bias)

Example from Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational

March 01, 2013
Encyclopedia of the Mind
Harold Pashler

a general term used to describe cases in which a person’s judgment or evaluation is influenced by—or anchored on—salient information in one’s environment.
In most cases, anchors exert a drag on the judgment and render final estimates biased in the direction of the original anchor value

see also:
Anchoring Bias in Decision-Making

NPR. May 23, 2012
“Your biases will get you things like a confirmation bias: ‘I’ve seen it before, so it must be happening again.’
Or an anchoring bias: ‘We’ve come up with that conclusion, and I think it’s true, and it’s not going to change.'”

One exercise now in use is called “Analysis of Competing Hypotheses.”
Analysts who may be inclined toward one explanation for some notable development are forced to consider alternative explanations and to tally up all the evidence that is inconsistent with their favored hypothesis.

“You’re looking for the hypothesis with the least inconsistencies” “We call it the Last Man Standing approach.”


Cognitive biases