Awareness of Implicit Priming of Self-disclosure Thomas Wilson (Psychology, De Montfort University, Leicester, Leicestershire United Kingdom) C21
Implicit cognitions are those thoughts and beliefs making up the large part of our mental lives that pass automatically, without effort, and without conscious awareness. To give explanation for implicit cognition, popular psychological theory questions how well we can know ourselves and the many influences on our behavior by postulating separate cognitive systems, one conscious and the other nonconscious. One recently demonstrated example of implicit cognition is the automatic priming of individuals to promote their self-disclosure outside of awareness (Grecco, Robbins, Bartoli, & Wolff, 2013). Although such priming is very useful in applied settings, the claim that this verbal priming is nonconscious was based on post-experimental questions regarding the participants' awareness of the research hypothesis. Such a non-analytic posture to awareness assessment is common among researchers of implicit cognition. Using a unique analytic approach to the assessment of conscious contents and their validation, the experimental findings I will present demonstrate that individuals are perfectly aware of the self-disclosure priming, calling into question the implicit status of such cognitions. A sample of 112 volunteers from the United States, ranging in age from 18 to 34 years, participated in the experiment designed to replicate previous research materials and procedures across three independent groups. Participants were invited to perform a sentence scramble game in which priming words were among the targets, either toward self-disclosure, toward non-disclosure, or neutral (no prime). All participants then responded to a brief set of self-report items regarding the self, and provided two self-descriptive essays as dependent measures. Results replicated the priming effect and the non-disclosure priming obtained relative to no prime. Analysis of conscious contents before and after measurement of self-disclosure confirmed the hypothesis that participants were aware of the supposed nonconscious priming and that individual awareness predicted the amount of self-disclosure or non-disclosure. That is, participants' self-disclosing was statistically predicted by introspectively accessible (conscious) mental representations about the nature of the priming tasks. These results specifically contribute to our understanding and application of the conscious and nonconscious mechanisms that lead to facilitation and inhibition of self-disclosure. More generally, in the presentation these findings will be discussed in relation to the standard dual process model of human cognition, the operational adequacy of post-experimental questions to determine awareness of the cognitions operating, and the utility of the analytic approach used here to assess and validate contents in awareness.