There’s a concept in cognitive psychology called priming. In its most abstract, this means that if we are given a reminder of a stimulus before being presented with that stimulus, we are more likely to behave favorable towards that stimulus. People who are shown pictures of money before being asked to calculate the cost of groceries are more rapid in their calculations and people who are reminded of aging through subtle cue words like “Florida” and “retirement” are more likely to walk slowly immediately afterwards.
Some of these priming examples have unfortunate consequences (like the so-called old-aging “Florida priming” example) but I’d like to look at how we might use these realities to improve our performance, too.
Here are two cases studies:
Asian Test priming: asian students who are reminded of their ethnicity prior to tests, perform better than the same students not reminded that of asian-students-make-good-test-takers stereotype. In this case, students are simply being reminded of the biases they themselves might hold. My curiosity then is how else might we use our current beliefs to stimulate behavior in accordance with those beliefs?
Age priming: In the “Florida priming” example, participants in the study walk more slowly due to the reminders of behaviors of the elderly. In this example, participants are performing according to the dictates of a different stereotyped group. How then could we stimulate performance according to the group different then our own?
I am going to examine both of these cognitive biases from the perspective of learning ballet, but the lessons can be applied across any physical or mental discipline.