What’s Next For Psychology’s Embattled Field of Social Priming

Many findings in social priming have been disputed that some say the field is close to being entirely discredited. “I don’t know a replicable finding. It’s not that there isn’t one, but I can’t name it,” says Brian Nosek, a psychologist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who has led big replication studies. “I’ve gone from full believer to full sceptic,” adds Michael Inzlicht, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, Canada, and an associate editor at the journal Psychological Science. Some psychologists say the pendulum has swung too far against social priming. Among these are veterans of the field who insist that their findings remain valid. Others accept that many of the earlier studies are in doubt, but say there’s still value in social priming’s central idea. It is worth studying whether it’s possible to affect people’s behavior using subtle, low-cost interventions — as long as the more-outlandish and unsupported claims can be weeded out, says Esther Papies, a psychologist at the University of Glasgow, U.K.

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