The present research suggests that biased interpersonal perceptions can mediate prime-to-behavior effects and introduces a new moderator for when such mediation will occur. Across 5 experiments, the authors provide evidence that priming effects on behavior in interpersonal contexts are mediated by social perceptions, but only when participants are focused on the other person. These effects occur when other-focus is primed (Experiment 1), when other-focus is high owing to the decision-making situation (Experiment 2), and when other-focus is dispositionally high (Experiment 3). Experiments 4 and 5 bring additional support for a biased perception account by ruling out an alternative behavior-perception link and showing that other-focus can moderate not only the mediating mechanism of prime-to-behavior effects but also the behavioral effects themselves. The implications of these results for increasing understanding of behavioral priming effects in rich social contexts are discussed.

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Journal of Personality and Social Psychology
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Smeesters, D., Wheeler, S. C., & Kay, A. (2009). The Role of Interpersonal Perceptions in the Prime-to-Behavior Pathway. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96(2), 395–414. doi:10.1037/a0012959