John A. Bargh's research while affiliated with Yale University and other places

Publications (195)

Article
Unconscious influences permeate the everyday life of consumers. The scope of unconscious influences is greatly enhanced when the operational definition of “unconscious” shifts from the anachronistic “subliminal” one—whether the person is aware of the triggering information itself—to the far more common situation of being unaware of the influence of...
Article
In an effort to combat COVID-19 and future pandemics, researchers have attempted to identify the factors underlying social distancing. Yet, much of this research relies on self-report measures. In two studies, we examine whether self-reported social distancing predicts objective distancing behavior. In Study 1, individuals’ self-reported social dis...
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A Correction to this paper has been published: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-01028-x.
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To what extent can simple, domain-general factors inform moral judgment? Here we examine whether a basic cognitive-affective factor predicts moral judgment. Given that most moral transgressions break the assumed pattern of behavior in society, we propose that people's domain-general aversion towards broken patterns – their negative affect in respon...
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Empathy influences how we perceive, understand, and interact with our social environment. Previous studies suggested a network of different brain regions as a neural substrate for empathy, including, in particular, insula and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). In addition, a contribution of the somatosensory cortices for this empathy related network...
Preprint
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Social distancing is the single most effective method to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As such, researchers across varying fields are currently attempting to identify the variables that predict social distancing and which interventions can heighten social distancing. Yet, much of this research relies on self-report measures (in part because of soc...
Article
The research reviewed in Chen et al.'s (this issue) meta‐analysis shows that a person's goal pursuits and motivational states can be induced by external means, or ‘primes', and then operate in much the same way as if the person made a conscious intention to pursue that goal. Previous demonstrations of this phenomena in psychology laboratories are n...
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When people plan to respond to a stimulus S with an action R, they hold an S-R association in working memory. Such S-R associations are called prepared reflexes. In the present investigation, we explored the possibility that prepared reflexes play a central role in evaluative processing. Specifically, we tested the hypothesis that attitudes toward...
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Contrary to Hoerl & McCormack (H&M), we argue that the best account of temporal cognition in humans is one in which a single system becomes capable of representing time. We suggest that H&M's own evidence for dual systems of temporal cognition – simultaneous contradictory beliefs – does not recommend dual systems, and that the single system approac...
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Research has documented an overlap between people's aversion toward nonsocial pattern deviancy (e.g., a row of triangles with 1 triangle out of line) and their social prejudice. It is unknown which processes underlie this association, however, and whether this link is causal. We propose that pattern deviancy aversion may contribute to prejudice by...
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Social-cognitive skills can take different forms, from accurately predicting individuals’ intentions, emotions, and thoughts (person perception or folk psychology) to accurately predicting social phenomena more generally. Past research has linked autism spectrum (AS) traits to person perception deficits in the general population. We tested whether...
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Objective: Accurate assessment of pain is central to diagnosis and treatment in healthcare, especially in pediatrics. However, few studies have examined potential biases in adult observer ratings of children’s pain. Cohen et al. (2014) reported that adult participants rated a child undergoing a medical procedure as feeling more pain when the child...
Preprint
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Objective: Accurate assessment of pain is central to diagnosis and treatment in healthcare, especially in pediatrics. However, there are few studies examining potential biases in adult observer ratings of children’s pain. Cohen et al. (2014) reported that adult participants rated a video of a child undergoing a needle stick as experiencing more pai...
Preprint
Objective: Observer rating of pain is central to diagnosis and treatment in healthcare, especially in pediatrics. However, there are few studies examining potential biases in observer ratings of pediatric pain. Cohen et al. (2014) reported that adult participants rated a video of a child undergoing a needle stick as experiencing more pain when the...
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Happiness can be expressed through smiles. Happiness can also be expressed through physical displays that without context, would appear to be sadness (tears, downward turned mouths, and crumpled body postures) and anger (clenched jaws, snarled lips, furrowed brows, and pumped fists). These seemingly incongruent displays of happiness, termed dimorph...
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Extralegal factors may influence judicial outcomes. Here we investigated the experience of incidental haptic sensations on the harshness of punishment recommendations. Based on recent theories of embodiment, which claim that cognitive representations are structured by metaphorical mappings from sensory experience, we hypothesized that tactile primi...
Article
In six studies (N = 1,143), we investigated social psychological skill - lay individuals' skill at predicting social psychological phenomena (e.g., social loafing, attribution effects). Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated reliable individual differences in social psychological skill. In Studies 2, 3, and 4, attributes associated with decreased cognitive a...
Article
It is often said that there are two types of psychological processes: one that is intentional, controllable, conscious, and inefficient, and another that is unintentional, uncontrollable, unconscious, and efficient. Yet, there have been persistent and increasing objections to this widely influential dual-process typology. Critics point out that the...
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Background: Young adult heavy drinking is an important public health concern. Current interventions have efficacy but with only modest effects, thus novel interventions are needed. In prior studies, heavy drinkers, including young adults, have demonstrated stronger automatically triggered approach tendencies to alcohol-related stimuli than lighter...
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What predicts people’s powerful and universal dislike of social deviancy? Across six studies, aversion towards non-social pattern deviancy, for example, a row of triangles with one triangle out of line, predicted aversion towards stigmatized individuals, social norm breakers, statistically negative and positive deviants, and a racial minority group...
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People derive a number of benefits from sharing experiences with close others. However, most research on this topic has been restricted to forms of sharing involving explicit socializing, including verbal communication, emotion expression, and behavioral interaction. In two studies, these complexities were eliminated to find out whether merely expe...
Article
Across two studies, we find evidence for our prediction that experimentally increasing feelings of physical safety increases conservatives’ socially progressive attitudes. Specifically, Republican and conservative participants who imagined being endowed with a superpower that made them invulnerable to physical harm (vs. the ability to fly) were mor...
Article
Two studies examined whether implementation intentions, self-regulatory “if-then” plans, can alter social projection – people's tendency to automatically assume that other people share their attitudes. In Study 1 (N = 120), participants provided their attitudes on twenty items (e.g., “I like mechanics magazines”), and then formed either (1) a goal...
Article
Whether at a coffee shop, in a waiting room, or riding the bus, people frequently observe the other people around them. Yet they often fail to realize how much other people engage in the same behavior, and that they, therefore, also are being observed. Because it is logically impossible that people, on average, are the subjects of observation more...
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Sharing an experience with another person can amplify that experience. Here, we propose for the first time that amplification is moderated by the psychological distance between co-experiencers. We predicted that experiences would be amplified for co- experiencers who are psychologically proximate but not for co-experiencers who are psychologically...
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In Telling More Than We Can Know, Nisbett and Wilson (1977) demonstrated the limits of one's ability to introspect about the nature of cognitive processing. Today, advancements have illuminated why one is very much conscious of some things (e.g., objects and inclinations toward them), but is less aware of other things (e.g., motor control and proce...
Article
Unconscious priming effects involve passive activation of internal mental representations that influence judgments and behavior without the person's intention or awareness. An important distinction is between unawareness of the priming stimuli or events per se (as in subliminal priming) and unawareness of the influence of those primes: the latter i...
Article
Consistent with neural reuse theory, empirical tests of the related “scaffolding” principle of abstract concept development show that higher-level concepts “reuse” and are built upon fundamental motives such as survival, safety, and consumption. This produces mutual influence between the two levels, with far-ranging impacts from consumer behavior t...
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Four studies sought to bridge the gap between the consumer literature on atmospheric effects on shopping and research on prime-to-behavior effects. Studies 1-3 found that nonconsciously priming sophistication influenced consumer preferences, lending credence to the hypothesis that the accessibility of concepts related to sophistication is sufficien...
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Extremely positive experiences, and positive appraisals thereof, produce intense positive emotions that often generate both positive expressions (e.g., smiles) and expressions normatively reserved for negative emotions (e.g., tears). We developed a definition of these dimorphous expressions and tested the proposal that their function is to regulate...
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Mirroring neurons fire both when an individual moves and observes another move in kind. This simulation of others' movements is thought to effortlessly and ubiquitously support empathetic connection and social understanding. However, at times this could be maladaptive. How could a boxer mirror a losing opponent's expressions of fatigue, feeling his...
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In two studies, we found that sharing an experience with another person, without communicating, amplifies one's experience. Both pleasant and unpleasant experiences were more intense when shared. In Study 1, participants tasted pleasant chocolate. They judged the chocolate to be more likeable and flavorful when they tasted it at the same time that...
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As Tversky and Kahneman (1971) noted, effect sizes in smaller samples are inherently unstable. Donellan et al. (2014) in a large sample show that the relation between trait loneliness and warmth extraction through bathing activities is much smaller than in our initial smaller samples. We report further replications of our original findings in sampl...
Article
Contrary to the recent assertions of skeptics of behavioral priming effects, the concept of priming was not introduced by the Meyer and Schvaneveldt (M-S, 1971) study of brief semantic spreading activation effects (perceptual-interpretation priming); it was originally introduced by Karl Lashley (1951) as a mechanism to increase the probability of a...
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In our response, we address commentators’ feedback regarding the contributions and limitations of the Selfish Goal model. We first clarify potential misunderstandings regarding the model’s contributions and the role of consciousness. Second, we situate evaluations of the selfish metaphor within the similarities and differences inherent to the goal-...
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We propose the Selfish Goal model, which holds that a person's behavior is driven by psychological processes called goals that guide his or her behavior, at times in contradictory directions. Goals can operate both consciously and unconsciously, and when activated they can trigger downstream effects on a person's information processing and behavior...
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The unconscious mind tends to disregard negations in its processing of semantic meaning. Therefore, messages containing negated concepts can ironically prime mental representations and evaluations that are opposite to those intended. We hypothesized that the subtle presentation of a negated concept (e.g., “no smoking”) would activate ironic motivat...
Article
The study of intrapsychic conflict has long been central to many key theories about the control of behavior. More recently, by focusing on the nature of conflicting processes in the brain, investigators have revealed great insights about controlled versus automatic processes and the nature of self-control. Despite these advances, many theories of c...
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People cope with social exclusion both by seeking reconnection with familiar individuals and by denigrating unfamiliar and disliked others. These reactions can be seen as adaptive responses in ancestral environments where ostracism exposed people to physical dangers and even death. To the extent that reactions to ostracism evolved to minimize expos...
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Objective: Social marketing is commonly proposed to counteract advertising and other messages that promote unhealthy products. However, public service campaigns can also 'boomerang' or ironically increase the unhealthy behaviours they are designed to discourage. The present study examined whether antismoking public service announcements (PSAs) cou...
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This chapter considers body perception from a functionalist perspective in which mental phenomena (representations and subjective states) guide an organism's behavior. From this perspective, body perception is constrained by adaptive considerations of actions, influences of physical and social environments, and high-level cognitive processes.
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Over the past several years, the concept of automaticity of higher cognitive processes has permeated nearly all domains of psychological research. In this review, we highlight insights arising from studies in decision-making, moral judgments, close relationships, emotional processes, face perception and social judgment, motivation and goal pursuit,...
Article
The target article is a response to internet blog posts and not to the published record. This distinction matters because while the blog posts debated free will, within the peer-reviewed, scientific psychological literature the debate has always been over a somewhat different issue: the causal nature of conscious as opposed to automatic cognitive p...
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Presents experimental evidence illustrating how the subjective experience of behavior by others can spontaneously influence our own actions in social situations. The similarities and differences between humans and mackerels are explored. The tendency to imitate, the difference between men and mackerels, and focal attention and behavioral time-outs...
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Objectives: Health behavior theories focus on the role of conscious, reflective factors (e.g., behavioral intentions, risk perceptions) in predicting and changing behavior. Dual-process models, on the other hand, propose that health actions are guided not only by a conscious, reflective, rule-based system but also by a nonconscious, impulsive, ass...
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Psychologists are increasingly interested in embodiment based on the assumption that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are grounded in bodily interaction with the environment. We examine how embodiment is used in social psychology, and we explore the ways in which embodied approaches enrich traditional theories. Although research in this area is bu...
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In the research reported here, we investigated how suspicious nonverbal cues from other people can trigger feelings of physical coldness. There exist implicit standards for how much nonverbal behavioral mimicry is appropriate in various types of social interactions, and individuals may react negatively when interaction partners violate these standa...
Chapter
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Science has begun to illuminate the mechanisms underlying self-control and its phenomenology. One prevalent hypothesis regarding self-directed,'voluntary' action is that of ideomotor processing - that both the guidance and knowledge of one's voluntary actions are limited to perceptual-like representations of action outcomes (e. g. , the'image' of o...
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The metaphoric expression ‘bright smile’ may reflect the actual judgment of facial lightness under varying emotional expressions. The present research examined whether people in fact judge smiling faces as perceptually brighter than frowning faces. Four studies demonstrated that participants believed smiling faces were brighter compared to frowning...
Article
Action tendencies can be activated and put into motion without the need for the individual's conscious intervention; even complex social behavior can unfold without an act of will or awareness of its sources. Behavioral evidence from patients with frontal lobe lesions, behavior and goal-priming studies in social psychology, the dissociated behavior...
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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 actional 'sets' formed through extensive training in a particular domain (e.g., music). Accordingly, w...
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Social coordination involves the interpersonal matching of thoughts, feelings and behaviors, as well as the synchronization of rhythms and roles with other people. Coordination effects are evident in product preferences, product usage, buyer-seller interactions, and a host of other consumer experiences. Such forms of coordination often occur automa...
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A review of Unconscious Thought Theory, its original empirical support, and the several methodological and empirical critiques that followed leads to the following conclusions: (1) the basic tenants of Unconscious Thought Theory are in harmony with recent research and theory on unconscious processes if not with the dated, "straw-man" version of the...
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Contemporary interpersonal biases are partially derived from psychological mechanisms that evolved to protect people against the threat of contagious disease. This behavioral immune system effectively promotes disease avoidance but also results in an overgeneralized prejudice toward people who are not legitimate carriers of disease. In three studie...
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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...
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Trust lies at the heart of person perception and interpersonal decision making. In two studies, we investigated physical temperature as one factor that can influence human trust behavior, and the insula as a possible neural substrate. Participants briefly touched either a cold or warm pack, and then played an economic trust game. Those primed with...
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Classic and contemporary research on person perception has demonstrated the paramount importance of interpersonal warmth. Recent research on embodied cognition has shown that feelings of social warmth or coldness can be induced by experiences of physical warmth or coldness, and vice versa. Here we show that people tend to self-regulate their feelin...
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This research examines how processing fluency influences people's perceptions of whether a trend will continue into the future. Specifically, three studies hypothesized that people who read descriptions of increasing or decreasing trends in easy-to-read font would be more likely to predict that the trend would continue into the future, compared to...
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Three studies provide evidence that the judgments and behaviors of contemporary Americans are implicitly influenced by traditional Puritan-Protestant values regarding work and sex. American participants were less likely to display traditional values regarding sexuality when implicitly primed to deliberate, as opposed to intuition and neutral primes...
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Self-deception may be a natural consequence of active goal operation instead of an adaptation for negotiating the social world. We argue that because autonomous goal programs likely drove human judgment and behavior prior to evolution of a central executive or "self," these goal programs can operate independently to attain their desired end states...
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Does the mere presence of the things we have tended to influence our actions systematically, in ways that escape our awareness? For example, while entering a tool shed, does perceiving objects that we once tended to (e.g., tools, musical instruments) influence how we then execute a simple action (e.g., flicking the shed's light switch)? Ancient tra...
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A recurrent idea in the history of psychology is that one is conscious of outputs but not of the complex processes underlying the generation of outputs, which is evident in the out-of-the-blue, “eureka-like” experiences associated with intuition. We examine how this idea may suffer from a logical fallacy and may thus have inadvertently hindered pro...
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Everyone has had the experience of trying to clear one's mind before going to sleep, only to have intrusive cognitions about future tasks (e.g., giving a speech, solving a financial conundrum) perturb consciousness. Similar cognitions can interfere with other goals (e.g., to concentrate while driving). We propose that intrusive cognitions are far f...
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Mere physical experiences of warmth, distance, hardness, and roughness are found to activate the more abstract psychological concepts that are analogically related to them, such as interpersonal warmth and emotional distance, thereby influencing social judgments and interpersonal behavior without the individual's awareness. These findings further s...
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Touch is both the first sense to develop and a critical means of information acquisition and environmental manipulation. Physical touch experiences may create an ontological scaffold for the development of intrapersonal and interpersonal conceptual and metaphorical knowledge, as well as a springboard for the application of this knowledge. In six ex...
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The resurgence of motivation in social psychology has been a welcome addition to the cognitive revolution, though a theory-based approach to motivational content has remained conspicuously absent. Kenrick, Griskevicius, Neuberg, and Schaller (2010, this issue) dust off Maslow's hierarchy of needs and find this content in the form of evolutionarily...
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Sexual harassment is considered from the perspective of power abuse in general. Recent research on sexually aggressive men has underscored the importance of power and dominance as a motivator of their behavior toward women. One striking feature of both sexual harassment and the misuse of power is the lack of awareness offenders often show regarding...
Chapter
In the words of George A. Miller, “In some sense not yet defined we are both conscious and unconscious at the same time.” Miller's eloquent assertion is illustrated perhaps most dramatically by an experiment conducted by Logothetis and Schall (1989), in which subjects were trained to self-report the contents of their conscious experience under cond...
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The present study tests whether incidental exposure to no-smoking signs may ironically boost craving for cigarettes in smokers. Smokers viewed photographs in which no-smoking signs were either inconspicuously embedded (prime) or edited out (control). Participants then used a joystick to make quick approach vs. avoid motions while viewing smoking-re...