Can a Single Dose of Conscious Expert Deliberation Reduce Unwanted Unconscious Priming Effects?

Dev Das, Pace University


The academic community has long debated the relative merits of conscious and unconscious thought. Views fall into two camps – those who argue that conscious decisions are more reliable because they are based on rational and deliberative thinking, and others who think unconscious/intuitive thought can produce better quality decisions in situations where more holistic and creative thinking is required. Preliminary attempts to reconcile the opposing points of view have argued that favoring one process over another is too simplistic. Most consumer behavior is likely shaped and influenced by an interaction of both conscious and unconscious thinking. More specifically, there is emerging evidence that priming effects can be reduced by conscious interventions. Media literacy training and counter-stereotypical messages were found to reduce any implicit bias towards African Americans and Asian Indians. The simple act of sharing a warning message before or after a prime reduced the effect possibly due to increased vigilance. These efforts have begun to address the ethical concerns with priming and provided assurances that it may be possible to protect subjects prior to expected priming events, thus reducing their vulnerability to the primes. These pioneering research efforts provide the basis for the current research effort. This research attempts to bring the warring camps closer together by providing yet another situation where the conscious and unconscious can work together to shield an individual from unwanted influences. More specifically, it investigates if a single pre-emptive treatment of expert thinking on a subject can reduce sensitivity to subsequent automatic priming effects. While prior research findings on this topic were based solely on laboratory settings using undergraduate students, this research includes a more nationally representative sample of US adults for increased external validity. Besides the academic and social relevance, the research findings can also be relevant from a commercial context. A dose of expert deliberation could be a relatively easy treatment to shield consumers from the priming effects of competitive brand marketing efforts or even environmental cues. A smaller or newer brand could use this approach to defend its share from the ubiquitous priming effects from the marketing programs of larger or more established brands.

Subject Area

Marketing|Cognitive psychology

Recommended Citation

Das, Dev, "Can a Single Dose of Conscious Expert Deliberation Reduce Unwanted Unconscious Priming Effects?" (2021). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI28410921.



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