Use of Priming-Based Interventions to Facilitate Psychological Health: Commentary on Kazdin and Blase (2011)

Perspect Psychol Sci. 2011 Sep;6(5):488-92. doi: 10.1177/1745691611416993.


Whereas traditional psychological interventions have been conceptualized in terms of deliberate readiness for change (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983), emerging findings from social psychology suggest that regulation of behavior can operate independently of conscious selection and guidance (Bargh & Morsella, 2010). This evidence has come from studies using priming techniques based on activation of relevant mental representations by external environmental stimuli (Bargh & Chartrand, 2000). Research on automatic interpersonal processes has shown that feeling of social warmth (Bargh & Shalev, 2011; Williams & Bargh, 2008a) and the regulation of maladaptive emotions (Williams, Bargh, Nocera, & Gray, 2009), for example, can be induced nonconsciously by physical sensations, visual images or semantic concepts. Interventions based on the procedure of priming could be administered by multiple providers and communication devises to regulate emotional states, increase adherence to treatment instructions, or activate mind-sets that facilitate adaptive functioning. Integrating the methodology of priming and clinical intervention could both contribute to treatment delivery and enrich our understanding of change processes. We conclude that the use of supplementary priming-based interventions to facilitate and disseminate psychological change should be encouraged.

Keywords: automaticity; change; embodiment; emotion regulation; implicit processes; priming; psychological intervention; self regulation.