Two Priming Effects to be Examined in APS Registered Replication Reports With Combined Protocol

APS announces two new Registered Replication Report (RRR) projects. Data for these two projects will be collected concurrently as part of a single protocol, and participating laboratories will be listed as authors on both reports. These reports will be published in APS’s new journal, Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science, and they will replicate Experiment 1 from:

  • Mazar, N., Amir, O., & Ariely, D. (2008). The dishonesty of honest people: A theory of self-concept maintenance. Journal of Marketing Research, 45(6), 633–644.

and Experiment 1 from:

  • Srull, T. K., & Wyer, R. S. (1979). The role of category accessibility in the interpretation of information about persons: Some determinants and implications. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37(10), 1660–1672.

In the 2008 study, Nina H. Mažar (University of Toronto, Canada), On Amir (University of California, San Diego), and Dan Ariely (Duke University) showed that a quick and simple moral reminder significantly reduced cheating. Participants were given a problem-solving task and an incentive to perform well. Those participants in the critical “cheat” condition were given an opportunity to report solving a greater number of problems than they actually did, with no risk of being caught. When those participants were primed with a moral reminder (to recall the Ten Commandments) versus a neutral reminder (to recall 10 books they read in high school) before completing the task, the morally primed subjects reported solving 28% fewer problems. According to the authors, “the level of dishonesty dropped when people paid more attention to honesty standards” (p. 642).

Several labs have conducted studies extending this concept of religious and moral priming, and the influence of priming on honesty has been examined in a variety of contexts. However, a direct replication of the Mazar, Amir, and Ariely (2008) study has never been published, and some recent studies have not found moral or religious priming to have an effect on subsequent deceptive behaviors. The proposers of the replication, Bruno Verschuere (University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands), and Ewout Meijer (Maastricht University, the Netherlands), hope that a large, multicenter direct replication of this study will help to provide clarity regarding moral priming.

The task in Mazar, Amir, and Ariely’s study was administered as a part of a larger battery of tests in a large classroom setting, conditions that must be met by the RRR study as well. This provides an opportunity to conduct another RRR as part of that battery. The second RRR will examine Thomas K. Srull (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) and Robert S. Wyer’s (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong) seminal 1979 study.

In that study, the authors examined the so-called assimilation priming effect by first asking subjects to descramble sentences that described either hostile or neutral behaviors. When subjects subsequently read a vignette about a man whose behaviors were ambiguous in their hostility, those who had been primed with more hostile sentences judged these ambiguous behaviors as more hostile and rated the man as more hostile as well.

Although the effects of “hostile priming” have been conceptually repeated in many experiments, recent concerns over the replicability of some social priming studies — including ones using sentence descrambling as a prime — inspired Randy J. McCarthy and APS Fellow John J. Skowronski, both of Northern Illinois University, to propose a large-scale replication to measure the true size of this effect.

Researchers can learn more about the project at its Open Science Framework page, which includes the full protocol and all of the experimental materials. If you have any questions about this RRR or the RRR process in general, you can email the RRR editors.