Types of Priming

Distinctive Features between Perceptual and Conceptual Priming

Priming Opens in new window is a form of memory for specific factual and episodic information that depends on automatic retrieval processes and does not need to involve feeling of familiarity for what is remembered.

In this entry, distinction are made between the two forms of priming:

  1. perceptual and
  2. conceptual (semantic) priming.

Perceptual priming involves facilitated processing of the perceptual features of stimuli, and involves words and pictures, and visual, auditory, and tactile information.

A common task of perceptual priming involves studying a list of words and a later indirect test that allows influence of the studied words. For example, a subject may be asked to complete a word stem or fragment (ASSA __ or _SS_SI_) or to identify briefly presented words as words or nonwords.

Previously studied words are more likely to be used to complete fragments than other possible words and are more quickly identified.

In conceptual priming, previous experience with materials can be expressed through use of information to answer general knowledge questions without necessarily intentionally using the studied information.

Perceptual priming is modality specific, that is, priming across modalities (e.g., visual to auditory) is ineffective. For instance, when words are presented in the auditory modality during study and in the visual modality during testing, priming effects are reduced significantly.

Manipulations that alter perceptual features or studied items, such as font, alter perceptual priming, and priming is maximal when there is perceptual similarity between study and test.

Conversely, manipulating the depth of processing of semantic or conceptual information about stimuli does not affect perceptual priming. Conceptual priming, by contrast, occurs across modalities and is enhanced when deeper semantic processing is emphasized at study, but is unaffected by perceptual manipulations.

According to these findings, perceptual priming is an unconscious form of human memory that deals with perceptual identification of words and objects.

In contrast, conceptual priming occurs when one concept evokes retrieval of related items, such as when a person is asked to name members of the animal category.

Conceptual priming is displayed during free association tasks, such as when pre-exposure to cry elicits baby, or the production of category exemplars, such as when pre-exposure to strawberry elicits the names of other fruits.

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