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Automaticity of Everyday Life. Lectures 5 & 6: Automaticity of Everyday Life. Bargh, J.A., & Chartrand, T.L. (1999). The unbearable automaticity of being. American Psychologist , 54 , 462-479.

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lectures 5 6 automaticity of everyday life

Lectures 5 & 6:Automaticity of Everyday Life

Bargh, J.A., & Chartrand, T.L. (1999). The unbearable automaticity of being. American Psychologist, 54, 462-479.

Dijksterhuis, A., & Bargh, J.A. (2001). The perception-behavior expressway: Automatic effects of social perception on social behavior. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 33, 1-40.

Lakin, J.L., Jefferis, V.E., Cheng, C.M., & Chartrand, T.L. (2003). The chameleon effect as social glue: Evidence for the evolutionary significance of nonconscious mimicry. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 27, 145-162.

Lecture 5 – Behavioural Priming

Lecture 6 – Nonconscious Mimicry

varieties of automatic behaviour
Varieties of Automatic Behaviour

Action Priming

Interpersonal Mimicry

automaticity a framework for thinking about mental life
Automaticity:A Framework For Thinking About Mental Life
  • the case of the daydreaming driver!
  • components of mental life

automatic vs. controlled processes (Bargh, 1989)

  • 4 ‘horsemen’ of automaticity





the ecology of automaticity
The Ecology of Automaticity
  • So what exactly is an automatic process?
  • Are we aware of the causes of behavior?


3 ways in which we may be unaware of a mental process

  • we may be unaware of the presence of a stimulus (e.g., subliminal priming).
  • we may be unaware of the way in which a stimulus has been interpreted or categorized.
  • we may be unaware of factors (e.g., stimulus appraisal) that influence our behaviour.

So what role does awareness play in the elicitation of behaviour?

  • the intentionality aspect of automaticity refers to how much control we have over our thoughts and behaviour. Intentionality has to do with whether we are in control of the instigation of a process.

So do intentions give rise to our everyday actions and behaviours? Might our behavior be purposive, yet unintended?

  • the efficiency component of automaticity refers to the extent to which a mental process demands attentional resources for its execution. To the extent that it does, it may not occur when the attentional demands of a situation are high (e.g., dual tasking)

So is everyday behaviour efficient or can it be disrupted by concurrent tasks?

  • controllability generally refers to the extent to which one is aware of the impact of a stimulus and whether one is able to counteract (i.e., control) the effect of the stimulus on one’s behaviour.

So is everyday action controllable?

the lights are on but is there anybody home
The Lights Are On:But is There Anybody Home?

“much of everyday life - thinking, feeling, and doing - is automatic in that it is driven by current features of the environment (i.e., people, objects, behaviors of others, settings, roles, norms, etc.) as mediated by automatic cognitive processing of those features, without any mediation by conscious choice or reflection.”

Bargh (1997, p. 2)

if then conditionals
If-Then Conditionals
  • the power of if-then conditionals (Anderson, 1992; Bargh, 1989)
  • if X (i.e., environmental feature), then Y (i.e., action)

red light - then - brake

elderly person - then - ?

the perception behaviour link
The Perception-Behaviour Link
  • principle of ideomotor action (James, 1890)

thinking (consciously) about an action activates the tendency to engage in the behaviour (e.g., getting out of bed).

common coding hypothesis
Common Coding Hypothesis
  • representing action tendencies in the mind
  • common coding hypothesis (Prinz, 1990)

one’s mental representations (e.g., vanilla ice cream) contain not only related semantic information (e.g., cold, tasty), but also applicable behavioral information (e.g., eat with fudge sauce). Thus, when the representation is activated, accessible action tendencies guide one’s behaviour in particular directions.

So can behavior be elicited automatically?

automatic action some early evidence
Automatic Action:Some Early Evidence

Do aggressive cues make people aggressive?

carver et al 1983
Carver et al. (1983)
  • ‘shocking’ the confederate

in a first study, allegedly unrelated to the critical experiment, the concept of hostility was primed for some participants. Then, in what was purportedly an unrelated experiment, participants were told to give shocks to another person (confederate) when he or she gave an incorrect answer to a question. Those primed with hostility-related words gave longer shocks to the confederate than did non-

primed participants

  • ouch! but do these effects emerge in other domains?
automatic action bargh et al 1996
Automatic Action:(Bargh et al., 1996)
  • Expt 1 - Priming Trait Constructs

Phase 1: scrambled sentence task - prime ‘rudeness’ or ‘politeness’ or neither construct.

assertive patient

rude polite

disturb respectful

Phase 2: walk down the hall to take part in an

unrelated experiment, but the experimenter is

talking to someone (for a maximum of 10 mins)

How many participants interrupt the conversation?

Rude prime = 67%

Polite prime = 16%

Expt 2 - Priming Stereotypes

Phase 1 - scrambled sentence task

forgetful awkward

Florida California

bingo tricky

(category) (control)

Phase 2 - walking down the hall (40 feet)

time taken to make the journey

elderly condition = 8.26s

control condition = 7.30s

Thus, elicitation of action associated with the elderly. But there’s more!!!

Expt 3 - Priming Affective Responses

color-counting task (pre-tested as boring)

subliminal priming - black or white faces

masking stimulus (odd/even number of circles)

130th trial - error message appears on the screen

the task must be repeated

participants are videotaped

How did participants respond to being told that the task must be repeated?

rated hostility (5-point scale)

white faces = 2.13

black faces = 2.79

Priming Stereotypes (Expt 1)

Phase 1: thought listing (5 mins)




Phase 2: 42 Trivial Pursuit Questions

Who painted La Guernica?

(A) Dali, (B) Miro, (C) Picasso, or (D) Velasquez

Task Performance

professor = 59.5%

secretary = 46.4%

control = 49.9%

Strength of Priming

Phase 1 - Thought Listing

soccer hooligan (2 or 9 mins)

control (no prime)

Which country hosted the 1990 World Cup?

(A) USA, (B) Mexico, (C) Spain, or (D) Italy

Task Performance

soccer hooligan (2 mins) = 48.6%

soccer hooligan (9 mins) = 43.1%

control (no prime) = 49.9%

Thus, strength of the effect is moderated by the nature of the priming experience.

Priming Silence (Expt 1)

Phase 1: picture description task

library (you will visit) – ‘library goal’ prime

railway platform (you will visit) – ‘control goal’ prime

library (you will not visit) – ‘no-goal library’ prime

Phase 2: Lexical Decision Task (accessibility of words related to silence)

library-goal prime = 524 ms

control-goal prime = 578 ms

no-goal library prime = 568 ms

Producing Silence (Expt 2)

Phase 1: picture description task

library (you will visit) – ‘library goal’ prime

railway platform (you will visit) – ‘control goal’ prime

library (you will not visit) – ‘no-goal library’ prime

Phase 2: Pronounce 10 words (record voice intensity dB(A))

library-goal prime = 83.16 dB

control-goal prime = 84.48 dB

no-goal library prime = 84.62 dB

automatic action and inaction
Automatic Action and Inaction
  • lets ‘prime’ kissing (who do you kiss?)
  • architecture of cognition

resolving conflict (Norman & Shallice, 1986)

regulating automatic action

leaving the movies

kissing the boss


a few words from william james
A Few Words From William James

“we have so many ideas that do not result in action. But it will be seen that in every such case, without exception, that is because other ideas present simultaneously rob them of their impulsive power.”

James (1890, p. 525)

Phase 1 - Scrambled Sentence Task



  • Phase 2 - The Clumsy Experimenter

regular pens

leaking pens

  • did participants offer assistance?

Helping Control

regular pens 93.7% 68.7%

leaking pens 6.2% 12.5%

expt 2 on resisting assisting
Expt 2:On Resisting Assisting
  • Phase 1 - Scrambled Sentence Task



  • Phase 2 - Moving To The Next Experiment

running on schedule

5 mins behind schedule

  • did participants offer assistance (regular pens)?

Helping Control

on time 100% 75%

running late 12.5% 12.5%



Things Worth Knowing

What is automaticity?

Process and consequences of behavioral priming.

Next Week

1. Interpersonal Mimicry