Imagine that you wake up in the morning preparing for your work. You have your usual breakfast while reading the newspaper and drive up to the office that you get to do your daily job-JiuJitsu. As you set about your day, you notice a sort of aversion from your occupations that you can’t really put your hand on. You don’t know where it’s coming from or what caused it, but you go along with it, anyway. You, later on, meet with your coworker that also makes the point that you seem somewhat more absent and apathetic than usual. You scratch your head but you simply categorize the whole day as an occurrence of the occasional ‘bad day’ that anybody can go through from time to time.
Little did you know that the morning as you woke up, you spotted momentarily a fleeting notification in your phone displaying ‘’People living in small cities live longer and happier lives”. A little title that triggered to your unconscious a whole bunch of doubts about your lifestyle and life-decisions. Later on, as you were reading through the newspaper, you skimmed through an article contemplating the impact that stressful jobs to health. Both cases triggered their own negative thought patterns that create an internal conflict inside you and set you up out to doubt your choices. An example of unconscious battles that take place without even realizing it.
Different Kind Of Stimulus
Now imagine a different kind of scenario. You open the newspaper and skim through the news as usual. In the little right corner, in one of the pages, you catch a glimpse of an article that you pass through quickly. It displays how independent and creative thinkers manage to find success in all various aspects of their lives and how this originality can lead to real prosperity and happiness. Later on, you pass through some demonstrations about third world rights transgressions, that remind you of the privileges you get to enjoy for free while others need to strive in order to get. You continue on to your day with a strong concentration and a strange willingness to give your best. In this scenario, the perspective changes to a motivational spiral that pushes you to see your life in a more positive way. Your understanding of your possessions and your access to rare resources give you a different view on your standing and that makes you appreciate your havings more thoroughly.
We can see how various events trigger different thoughts that set us up for radically opposite patterns and behaviors. Small hints about our status, the possibility to reach our goals, or our state of living can fluctuate our psychology and the feeling of fulfillment we have for better or worse.
In similar ways, priming takes place on a number of occasions that are not easily recognizable. For example, imagine that you are heading into a job interview and in the road, you hear about the low salaries of employees in the city and their struggle to get by and how lucky certain people are to have a respectable amount of money. In that case, you may be inclined to lower your expectations on your aspired compensation and be content with less for that matter. And that scenario would turn radically opposite if you were to listen about the luxury lives of politicians or other members of society that may enjoy a more lavishing way of living. In that case, you would not only keep the high expectations but you would be inclined to raise the level even further.
Priming happens constantly in various ways and forms as we get along with our lives. To understand it properly, we need to dive in and dissect it.
What Is Priming
We’ve all heard the example of the pink elephant. It’s simply quite hard to not think about a pink elephant when someone is constantly telling you to not think about a pink elephant! It all comes down to our perceptions, the environment, and what we permit to revolve around us and inside our heads. Although we all like to think that we have control over our thinking patterns and are capable to refute external influences, it’s a very rare occasion that this actually happens. If you are in the company of friends that constantly complain and are negative about things, it’s only a matter of time before you ingrain these patterns of thinking with their accompanied values yourself. If you neglect to pick out the right food for your mind through books and artistic stimulation, that tickles your brain and expands your horizons, then your reality is gonna remain in the same narrow circle that it exits already and never grow any further. The elements that go into our brain condition our thinking and define our mental borders, so we should pay attention to what passes through our eyes and what we surround ourselves with.
Brain and Memory
Our brains are huge networks of neurons that fire up constantly as information passes along inside them. Science has already proved that the parts of the brain that are activated more frequently are the ones that would be the most easily aroused through random triggers.
This is the reason that picking up a math book out of the blue, when you are already out of school for some time, can be radically painful. The networks associated with receiving math input are so deactivated that are close to dead already. So starting pondering on the Pythagorean theorem can be equivalent to wakening up these long-forgotten areas that have been rusting over the corner of old tools and past machinery.
The same pattern appears in our phycological functioning as well. Making negative associations or displaying signs of depression on a consistent basis, endorse the chances for this behavior to be repeated in the future as well, assuming you establish a habitual pattern on your reactions to stimulus. The areas in the brain that control your phycological responses are strengthened accordingly, to the directions you give them, and so these patterns are naturally promoted and established at the forefront of your mental artillery.
Anthony Robbins once mentioned a brilliant exercise you can use to reduce negative patterns. What’s the most interesting part about this is not only the act of reversing these habits but actually realizing how ingrained these patterns are into the brain. Noticing that it only takes small triggers for them to rise up in the surface and drag you into the negative loop and that they are sparked a number of times throughout the day.
“Neurons That Fire Together Wire Together”
So this exercise asserts that you limit the time you indulge in negative thinking and you only permit yourself the maximum of 1 minute, from the moment you catch yourself having one. That means that it doesn’t matter how strong or how many times per day you have these thoughts, your job is that as soon as you catch yourself on the act, you cut it off after 60 seconds. And as easy as this may seem beforehand, going through it can be very illustrative of what impact these habits have on our brain and how unfathomably established these patterns are.
Priming And Language
There is a set of particular filler words in certain languages that through the use of gender articles and seemingly redundant words there is the occurrence of some sort of priming in the linguistic sense. For example, the German language contains what are called Modal Particles.
“Modal particles, are words that don’t change grammatical meaning but still add a conditional change to a sentence. They are, in a sense, flavoring words that add a deeper element to language.” — ANDY BATSON
Through these words, the recipient can anticipate, at micro-level, the point someone is about to make and thus receive it in a much smoother way. For example, gender nouns can prepare the ground on the particular categories they may refer to, or filler words can prepare the ground on the message you are trying to convey. Both of those are linguistics structures that are missing from the English language by the way.
Cognitive Biases And Priming
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that most cognitive biases have their root on some sort of priming. Think for example the confirmation bias that measures the tendency to interpret information in a way that suits our pre-established concepts. Or the anchoring bias that grounds us towards the first piece of information that comes our way as the starting point through which all the rest are to be compared to. If we listen about the price our peers bought their cars on, we are gonna consider this the de facto point through which we will appreciate our eventual buying of a car as well. Independently of what is the particular situation of the peers or of us in particular.
Pacing And Leading
My favorite example of priming is a particular NLP pattern called pacing and leading. Imagine you encounter a person that describes a number of things that you know for a fact to be correct. Maybe he will state generally accepted things like “The economy is malfunctioning”, or “Technology is causing people to close up to themselves”. You find yourself agreeing with them, which gives him the step to proceed with less accepted ideas that you may find harder to refute, after the established pattern of accepting his ideas beforehand. This technique is actually quite common and may happen more often than we realize.
There is an ongoing movement of thinkers that proclaim the huge importance of positive thinking. Through books like ‘Think And Gow Rich’ and ‘the secret’, to eastern philosophies and phycological pathways of how to reshape your unconscious, there have been numerous movements on positive thinking and its great impact on people. What they claim is that as long as you visualize success and appreciate the good things in your life through the power of gratitude, you are setting up yourself for happiness and a life of prosperity. Good things will accumulate one after the other as you elevate a beautiful upward spiral. Focus on the negatives on the other hand, and you are pretty much preparing your own demise.
All these ideas although seemingly unscientific they have a very strong phycological base coming from the understanding of the human brain. Training your brain to see the good things in life will propel you to seek these patterns in general and thus grow a deeper appreciation of things. Enumerating on the blessing that you are lucky to enjoy and realizing how many others are lacking so many of them, will help you gain a deeper understanding of how well life has treated you and thus push you to stop complaining and take action. All the habitual brain patterns feed on themselves and influence eventually your status and state in the world.0