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Researchers use sensory integration model to understand unconscious priming
Date:1/24/2014

PITTSBURGHPriming, an unconscious phenomenon that causes the context of information to change the way we think or behave, has frustrated scientists as they have unsuccessfully attempted to understand how it works. For example, researchers have found that hearing aging-related words causes people to walk more slowly, or holding a hot cup of coffee while talking to another person heightens feelings of interpersonal warmth. But, recent failures to replicate demonstrations of unconscious priming have resulted in a heated debate within the field of psychology.

In a breakthrough paper published in Perspectives on Psychological Science, Carnegie Mellon University's Roberta Klatzky and J. David Creswell use a well-established human perception theory to illustrate the mechanisms underlying priming and explain how its effects do not always act as predicted. Klatzky and Creswell describe and adapt a model of inter-sensory interaction how multiple senses combine to form perception that will give scientists a new and clearer avenue to investigate priming in the future.

"We began to think about social priming as just another way that our senses interact," said Klatzky, the Charles J. Queenan, Jr. Professor of Psychology who holds additional appointments in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition (CNBC).

Klatzky and Creswell use a basic sensory integration model in which each sense gathers information about the physical world through a channel; i.e. vision takes in photons of light, hearing takes in sound waves, etc. The information coming through these various pathways then comes together in the brain. Each input source produces a "bid" for the value of what is being experienced, and the bids are combined to create the whole perceptual result.

For example, when we stir coffee in a mug, we knock against the sides with the spoon and hear the "clink." Both senses of touch and hear
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Contact: Shilo Rea
shilo@cmu.edu
412-268-6094
Carnegie Mellon University
Source:Eurekalert

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