Priming (psychology)

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Priming in psychology is where an early stimulus influences response to a later stimulus. For example, when a person reads a list of words including the word table, and is later asked to complete a word starting with tab, the probability that subject answers table is higher than for non-primed people. Or people shown an incomplete sketch and unable to identify it are shown more of the sketch until they recognize the picture. Later they will identify the sketch at an earlier stage than was possible for them the first time.[1]

Priming works best when the two stimuli are in the same mode. For example visual priming works best with visual cues and verbal priming works best with verbal cues. But priming also occurs between modes,[2] or between semantically related words such as doctor and nurse.[3]

Priming can be conceptual or perceptual. Conceptual priming is based on the meaning of a stimulus and is enhanced by semantic tasks. For example, table, will show priming effects on chair, because table and chair belong to the same category. Perceptual priming is based on the form of the stimulus and is enhanced by the match between the early and later stimuli. Perceptual priming is sensitive to the modality and exact format of the stimulus. An example of perceptual priming is seeing the same sketch in the experiment mentioned above.

An important feature of a priming task is that amnesic subjects perform as well on it as control subjects do, indicating through their performance that they, too, remember what was on the previous study list, even though they report no conscious recollection of ever having seen the list. This is taken as one kind of evidence that implicit and explicit memory are different.[1]
Priming of amnesic subjects with words that were unknown to them prior to the injury is impaired, which has been argued to demonstrate that priming depends on the activation of existing memory.[1] This interpretation, however, is undermined by normal or near normal priming using nonverbal materials in amnesic subjects.[4]

One theory of priming is that the first stimulus activates parts of particular representation or associations in memory just before carrying out an action or task. The representation is already activated when the second stimulus is encountered, thus improving performance of the task. It is considered to be one of the manifestations of implicit memory.

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c Kolb & Whishaw: Fundamentals of Human Neuropsychology (2003), page 453-454, 457.
  2. ^ Several researchers, for example, have used cross-modal priming to investigate syntactic deficits in individuals with damage to Broca's area of the brain. See the following:
    • Zurif, E.B., D. Swinney, P. Prather, J. Solomon and C. Bushell (1993). "An on-line analysis of syntactic processing in Broca's and Wernicke's aphasia." Brain and Language 45, 448-464.
    • Swinney, D., E. Zurif, P. Prather, and T. Love (1993). "The neurological distribution of processing operations underlying language comprehension." Manuscript, Department of Psychology, University of California, San Diego.
    • For an overview, see also Zurif, E.B. (1995), "Brain Regions of Relevance to Syntactic Processing." in Knowledge of Meaning: An Introduction to Semantic Theory, eds. Richard Larson and Gabriel Segal. MIT Press.
  3. ^ Friederici, Angela D.; Karsten Steinhauer and Stefan Frisch (1999). "Lexical integration: Sequential effects of syntactic and semantic information". Memory & Cognition 27 (3): 438-453. "Semantic priming refers to the finding that word recognition is typically faster when the target word (e.g., doctor) is preceded by a semantically related prime word (e.g., nurse).". 
  4. ^ Bowers and Schacter (2003): Priming of novel information in amnesic patients: Issues and data, in Graff and Masson, New Directions in Cognition, Development and Neuropsychology.
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