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Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2008 Jul;34(7):900-12. doi: 10.1177/0146167208316692. Epub 2008 May 7.

Need for cognition can magnify or attenuate priming effects in social judgment.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA. petty.1@osu.edu


This article hypothesizes that the individual-difference variable, need for cognition (NFC), can have opposite implications for priming effects, depending on prime blatancy. Subtle primes are argued to be more effective for high- versus low-NFC individuals. This is because for high-NFC individuals, (a) constructs are generally easier to activate, (b) their higher amount of thought offers more opportunity for an activated construct to bias judgment, and (c) their thoughtfully formed judgments are more likely to affect behavior. However, because high-NFC individuals are adept at identifying and correcting for bias, with blatant primes the activated construct should be less likely to exert its default influence. Furthermore, with blatant primes, low-NFC individuals may achieve sufficient activation for primes to affect judgment. Across three studies, it is shown that as NFC increases, the magnitude of priming effects increases with a subtle prime but decreases with a blatant prime.

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