Day 417: Priming

I will continue my discussion that I started yesterday - Please refer to it for descriptions of some of the terms I will be using.

The stronger and more well developed schemas are, the more likely they are to influence our thinking and especially our memory for social information. 
Schemas can be temporarily activated by what is known as priming - transitory increases in the ease with which specific schemas can be activated produced by situations relevant to schemas.
...recent experiences make some schemas more active than they would otherwise be, and as a result, they exert stronger effects on our current thinking. 
...(studies) suggest that priming tends to have long lasting effects once it occurs... it can be deactivated by something social psychologists describe as unpriming. What unpriming means is that if some thoughts or actions are primed by a recent experience, this priming only persists until it somehow finds expression. Once it does, the effect dissipates. 

This priming effect, something no one seems to be aware of, is present in pretty much every aspect of our day-to-day lives. When we watch TV we are "primed" by the shows, movies, adverts, actors, music, words, ideas, ideals. When we go to school we are primed by the tone of the teacher and our classmates. When we go to work we are primed by the moods of our coworkers, the pressure that is placed on us, the tone of the customers we deal with. At home we are primed by our family members. When we're out on the town we are primed by the settings we enter, the mood of the places we go to, the energy of the crowds.

So if we're spending every day being constantly stimulated into thinking about certain things in certain ways, leading us to speak and act according to this priming - then how much of ourselves is actually who we are? Can we claim to be independent, autonomous beings if we don't actually have any awareness of why we do what we do - never mind that we're actually being influenced to act and think in certain ways without us even knowing. Can we claim to be in control of ourselves? Can we claim to have free choice? We are brainwashed and we don't even know it - how's that for ignorance?

I suppose that the very definition of brainwashed implies a form of ignorance - it is not easy to recognise that you are brainwashed if that is all you know. Once again, psychologists have discovered, researched and studied the effects of priming - so why have advertisements not been banned as a violation of human rights due to attempting to brainwash people into feeling a certain way about a (probably unrealistic, or simply false) presentation of a product or service? Why do psychologists not demand that the content of TV shows, movies and adverts be altered in order to minimise priming and maximise the education of the human, so that we might learn to recognise attempted priming and then choose not to be affected by it? Isn't that what people who care about people would do? Wouldn't they want what is best for all people? Why else would someone choose the career of psychology/psychiatry if not to help people?

Priming influences the way we see things and think. This implies that we have no sense of internal stability, we are as flimsy as a piece of string,  flopping this way and that according to what we see around us. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live like that - I don't want to be influenced to become or think aggressively just because I watched a movie with aggression in it - do you? I don't want bad moods to follow me around all day after a negative experience. I want to be able to take a deep breath and move forward without looking back and taking the rest of the day, week, month, year, or my life around with me on my shoulders. We live our lives thinking we have no choice, thinking that there is no way to control or direct the way we think or feel, thinking that we are at the mercy of various "forces" pushing us this way and that. You know what? It may not be easy, given how we have spent all of our lives believing what we do - but it is possible. We can change the way we think, act and feel so that  we never have to carry around a bad mood all day. We don't have to snap at our family after a stressful day.