Mental Modes: Priming of Expertise-based Dispositions in Expertise-unrelated Contexts

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Psicologica: International Journal of Methodology and Experimental Psychology


Why does the general demeanor of others change as soon as they begin to ‘talk shop’ or do something else that puts them into ‘work-mode’? We propose that such phenomena reflect an instance of incidental priming in which environmental cues activate actionable ‘sets’ formed through extensive training in a particular domain (e.g., music). Accordingly, we demonstrated that, by activating a ‘musician set,’ incidental musically-related stimuli prime musicians to spend more time on a domain-irrelevant task rehearsing nonsense words as compared to controls or non-primed musicians, as this set should involve a tendency towards deliberative practice. This finding provides additional evidence for a central tenet of social cognition research—that the mere presence of ambient stimuli influences behavioral dispositions systematically, in ways that often escape one’s awareness.