What Can Priming Memory Help Us With

Updated June 11, 2019

Reviewer Lauren Guilbeault

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One form of memory training some people use is priming. Priming is something that we use in training our memory to help benefit us, and a way to make our memory stronger. It does involve a bit of rehearsal to master it, but here, we'll go over all of the aspects of it in detail below.

What Is Priming?

Priming is a memory technique where we expose ourselves to influences and respond to the stimulus without even knowing about it. Our memories immediately trigger a response to certain stimuli in the world. It can be a good thing or a bad thing.

For example, wheat is usually something that we recognize more when talking about bread than say talking about clowns. If we remember a certain place, sometimes we attribute it to other places.

This does apply to learn too. It's a form of memorization that can be used to remember information, and it's quite helpful as well.

Usually, we have two types of priming stimuli, and those are visual or verbal cues. Sometimes, it's between two words though.

Positive Priming

Priming can be done in a positive manner, where you have the stimuli that you remember triggering a positive memory. For example, maybe you hear the word flowers, and you think of roses, and then you remember a time when you got roses from your partner. It does activate particular parts of your association memory, and these are usually activated once the stimulus is found. It does speed up the processing of this.

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Negative Priming

Negative does affect your priming as well. Negative slow it down immensely and usually caused by experiencing a stimulus. The positive ones are not always consciously seen.

Negative is much harder to understand, and usually, it attributes to episodic retrieval in the memory banks as well. For example, maybe you hear about going to the dentist, and you had a horrible time the last time you went. Immediately, your memory slows down, and it can be hard to look at positively. It does get flagged in the brain too as well, a bad memory, and the brain might fail to remember this because it causes conflict and negative emotions.

Conceptual And Perceptual Priming

Both of these types of priming are based on different stimuli, but they usually are more of a semantic form.

Conceptual priming is usually based on the stimuli meaning, as happening on a task itself. This is usually when you think about maybe putting like words together. For example, you think about the word armchair, it may relate to the word sofa since both of these have similar categories.

Perceptual priming is mostly based on stimuli, and then it's matched between different stimuli. Usually, this type of priming connects words and visuals in some cases too, and it's how you perceive something, and then how it relates to one another. For example, you may have a visual, that reminds you of another type of word, or maybe a word reminds you of a visual that you had earlier on. The word-stem completion tests is an example of this, where you stem words to one another to create a relationship with each of these.

Semantic Priming

This is a type of priming that essentially uses words to connect two different semantics. For example, you may connect the word cat to the lion, because they're both similar, with both of them having similar origins. This is usually used to help connect items to one another, and it's how certain words can connect to other words within the brain.

Sometimes even abbreviations can be connected in this case. For example, if you use the word psych, it actually will immediately make you know it's the word psychology.

This type of priming is used with both words, abbreviations, or even slang terms. It's how people remember the semantics of the language. When an individual has a word that's linked to a prior word, that is semantic priming. This can improve your time in reaction, and it lowers the decay time of the person's brain. That means, that if you do have words that relate to other words, you can remember these better, improve your recall immensely, and it can affect how you retain memory.

So priming memory, especially in a semantics senses, is important, especially if you're looking to remember information, and that, combined with rehearsal and other memory processes, can magically change you.

Priming With Repetition

This is a type of positive priming, used to speed up the recall of a person. Essentially, every time you experience something, it's primed, so that later stimuli will immediately be processed by the brain, and in a much quicker manner. This is good especially if you're looking to remember information continuously, and it allows you to memorize this quickly.

Response Priming

This is a type of priming that involves motor controls and visuals, which means that the main feature is that you prime the target in a super quick manner, and then you respond with the right motor skills. When this happens, the person can immediately put a response to this target as well. This, in turn, will improve your response times, and your reaction time as well, and is used many times in improving your reaction to various stimuli, especially in sports.

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Associative priming

This is a type of priming that involves associating other factors with other ones. There is a chance that the target appears with the prime, but it may not, and that in turn may cause it to have different correlations.

Let's take the words dog and cat. These are both associated primed by the brain, since they're both animals, and are used in various idioms. Context priming uses the stimuli in there to understand the context. You read the text, and you use contextual clues, and from there, you can associate one word with another, and you can use this to respond better to even the most common words.

Kindness Priming

This is commonly seen when someone experiences some kind of kindness to cause stimuli that's positive to react in this. For example, maybe you get help with some project, and you immediately associate this person with that stimuli, and it actually will increase the positive memory of the body.

Ways to Build Priming

There are a few ways to build priming in a person. One of the best ways is to memorize the sequences of something, and then associate with it. You associate words with other words.

Memory tests are used as well to help you prime your memory, and it can help someone influence the words of choice on tests and such, and you can remember words even after you've long forgotten them.

Another one is using a picture that isn't complete, and one they can't identify completely. This test is then used again and again to have the person recognize the picture faster and faster, and it spreads the activation of this, which means that the initial stimulus of this triggers memories of working on this, and the person becomes more aware of the activation of this.

Does Priming Help People

It can! For example, some people who suffer from amnesia who are usually not good at remembering events can have good memory capacity when they're using conceptual priming. Amnesiacs use this to use word stem completion, and they can accomplish understanding the way they remember items with priming, but can't do so without it.

Those that Have Aphasia also benefit from this. Most can't make judgments semantically without semantic priming, and they were able to make more consistent judgments with priming and could use syntactic and phonology processing as well.

Finally, those that have dementia, including Alzheimer's disease have some benefit from this. The results are conflicting, but the patients who did this are impaired by priming tasks when using semantic processing with the stimuli, while those that involve visuals and concepts or perception aren't affected by this at all.

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Some people use this in school to help better learn subjects, and it's a focal part of our memory. If you want to improve your memory, chances are, you could benefit immensely from priming, whether it be in a positive manner, or even through perceptual or conceptual priming. The best thing to do is, do try to use this, and try to help improve your memory tasks to get that long-term information to the forefront faster.

Get Help!

Improving your memory is a great thing, and many benefit from doing this. If you feel like you could benefit from memory priming, then you should avail yourself of this! The best thing for you to do is to speak to a counselor and get the help that you need to better your memory, but also your life.


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