Misunderstanding the Behavior Priming Controversy: Comment on Payne, Brown-Iannuzzi, and Loersch (2016)

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There has been considerable controversy around the limits and reproducibility of so-called “behavior” priming effects. Payne, Brown-Iannuzzi, and Loersch (2016) reported a series of 6 experiments on the effects of primes on participants’ bets in a simulated blackjack game, and claimed that their findings not only establish the reality of behavior priming beyond dispute, but also demonstrate that this form of priming has the crucial hallmark of occurring outside participants’ awareness and control. I describe a statistical model that does not distinguish automatic and controlled processes, but which nonetheless reproduces Payne et al.’s (2016) results and hence shows that their conclusions are unwarranted. Payne et al.’s (2016) experimental task and within-subjects design provide little insight into why some behavior priming studies have proven difficult to replicate.

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