Alice Pailhès and Gustav Kuhn
PNAS, Jul 2020, 202000682
Past research demonstrates that unconscious primes can affect people’s decisions. However, these free choice priming paradigms present participants with very few alternatives. Magicians’ forcing techniques provide a powerful tool to investigate how natural implicit primes can unconsciously influence decisions with multiple alternatives. We used video and live performances of the mental priming force. This technique uses subtle nonverbal and verbal conversational primes to influence spectators to choose the three of diamonds. Our results show that a large number of participants chose the target card while reporting feeling free and in control of their choice. Even when they were influenced by the primes, participants typically failed to give the reason for their choice. These results show that naturally embedding primes within a person’s speech and gestures effectively influenced people’s decision making. This raises the possibility that this form of mind control could be used to effectively manipulate other mental processes.
This paper shows that naturally embedding primes within a person’s speech and gestures effectively influences people’s decision making. Likewise, our results dovetail findings from choice blindness literature, illustrating that people often do not know the real reason for their choice. Magicians’ forcing techniques may provide a powerful and reliable way of studying these mental processes, and our paper illustrates how this can be done. Moreover, our results raise the possibility that this form of mind control could be used to effectively manipulate other mental processes.
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Editor's Note: This research has implications of how psychologists may consciously or unconsciously influence patient choices.