An Epiphany: Priming, Part One

on June 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

My eureka moment was well primed! Prime or priming is a word used in cognitive science to define being set up for a conclusion. When used in subliminal messages—words flashes before you below the conscious threshold—one word will prime your conscious for a target word. The hidden word “bank” might prime you for the word “money,” let’s say, as the answer to a question imposed later on. Or the word “bank” might prime you to guess the word “money” faster when shown to you just above the conscious threshold. These events are timed to within thousandths of a second while in brain scanners. There is a distinct subconscious/conscious correlation.

You can be primed to feel fuller before lunch. You can be primed to feel more generous in what you’re giving. You can also be primed to believe things which are less than true. The priming does not need to be below the conscious threshold. There are many commercials that tap into this process and we consumers are usually totally unaware. As they say: sex sells. The reason is, is that sex primes our “feel good” emotions and positively enforces the product being sold. Remarkably, even women are not immune to another sexy woman selling a product. There are many diet programs I could cite here. They have pictures of “perfect” bodies on woman and claim their diet and exercise product to be the cause. Some of these women have the “perfect” body and are born with it. There is no way these women have “weight issues” to speak of. Because they look sexy, they tap into, or prime, sexuality in women everywhere. “I want to look that sexy!”

In order for priming to work, there must be some mechanism in our nature to allow for it. It must bestow an advantage for survival. Priming, then, must have been selected for. This needs to be established before I can continue onto cognitive selection.

We need to start early in the evolution of species, but not too early as would necessitate a long explanation. If any animal saw a movement too rapid to pinpoint, the animal becoming primed would survive better. If say, the specimen in question had its senses heightened for another rapid movement, it might catch sight of the movement more accurately next time. Also, the movement priming would relay an advantage. The specimen would be ready to flee quicker than an unprimed specimen of the same species. If it were a wildcat getting ready to prance on a rabbit, then the primed rabbit would stand a better chance of survival. As soon as the movement was made again the primed rabbit would flee slightly more quickly than an unprimed rabbit. I have seen videos of predators being startled by their prey and running off due to the priming affect.

I think that this example makes it clear that natural selection would have something to favor in selecting for priming. Something has to occur before it can be selected for. Keeping an act of nervation stable for long enough—primed to fire again—under the same stimuli would hasten the next firing of the same neuron for the rapid movement. In the meantime, the priming would activate attention to the possible need to flee, consciously, or unconsciously. So, priming is a trait that would occur naturally making it selectable.

We should, when looking for the explanation of consciousness, apply the same principles. First it must occur naturally before it can become selected for. Cognition of cognition, or “I get that I get it” needs to have an occurrence, but more, it needs to have a primer. I will cover these in more detail in part two of this post next week. I will also share the actual quote from my [ book. ] The quote deals with the rise of consciousness in man. I hope you find it interesting!

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