Understanding priming effects in social psychology: What is "social priming" and how does it occur?

Daniel C. Molden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


How incidentally activated social representations affect subsequent thoughts and behaviors has long interested social psychologists. However, such priming effects have recently provoked debate and skepticism. This opening article of the special issue of Social Cognition on understanding priming effects in social psychology identifies two general sources of skepticism: 1) insufficient appreciation for the range of phenomena that involve priming, and 2) insufficient appreciation for the mechanisms through which priming occurs. To improve such appreciation, while previewing the other contributions to the special issue, this article provides a brief history of priming research that details the diverse findings any notion of "social priming" must encompass and reviews developments in understanding what psychological processes explain these findings. Thus, moving beyond debates about the strength of the empirical evidence for priming effects, this special issue examines the theoretical challenges researchers must overcome for further advances in priming research and considers how these challenges can be met.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Cognition
Issue numberSPEC. ISSUE
StatePublished - 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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