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Bartholow, B. D., Loersch, C., Ito, T. A., Levsen, M. P., Volpert-Esmond, H. I., Fleming, K. A., & Carter, B. (in press). University-affiliated Alcohol Marketing Enhances the Incentive Salience of Alcohol Cues. In press: Psychological Science.

We tested whether affiliating beer brands with universities enhances the incentive salience of those brands for underage drinkers. In Study 1, 128 undergraduates viewed beer cues while event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. Results showed: beer cues paired with ingroup backgrounds (logos for students’ universities) evoked an enhanced P3 ERP component, a neural index of incentive salience; this effect varied according to students’ levels of identification with their university; and the amplitude of the ingroup-beer P3 response predicted change in alcohol use over one month. Study 2 (N = 104) used a naturalistic advertisement exposure to experimentally create ingroup-brand associations, and found that this manipulation caused an increase in the incentive salience of the beer brand. These data provide the first evidence that marketing beer via affiliation with their university enhances the incentive salience of the brand for underage students, and that this effect has implications for their alcohol involvement.



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Payne, B. K., Brown-Iannuzzi, J. L., & Loersch, C. (2016). Replicable Effects of Primes on Human Behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 145, 1269-1279. doi: 10.1037/xge0000201

The effect of primes (i.e., incidental cues) on human behavior has become controversial. Early studies reported counterintuitive findings, suggesting that primes can shape a wide range of human behaviors. Recently, several studies failed to replicate some earlier priming results, raising doubts about the reliability of those effects. We present a within-subjects procedure for priming behavior, in which participants decide whether to bet or pass on each trial of a gambling game. We report six replications (N = 988) showing that primes consistently affected gambling decisions when the decision was uncertain. Decisions were influenced by primes presented visibly, with a warning to ignore the primes (Experiments 1-3), and with subliminally-presented masked primes (Experiment 4). Using a process dissociation procedure, we found evidence that primes influenced responses through both automatic and controlled processes (Experiments 5 & 6). Results provide evidence that primes can reliably affect behavior, under at least some conditions, without intention. The findings suggest that the psychological question of whether behavior priming effects are real should be separated from methodological issues affecting how easily particular experimental designs will replicate.



Loersch, C., & Payne, B. K. (2016). Demystifying Priming. Current Opinion in Psychology, 12, 32–36. doi:10.1016/j.copsyc.2016.04.020

Throughout the recent controversy surrounding social psychology’s priming literature, critics of these findings have suggested that the effects are “magic” and based on untenable mechanisms. Here, we demonstrate how the Situated Inference Model (Loersch & Payne, 2011) demystifies priming. Using the model, we describe how surprising and illogical priming effects can actually emerge from a simple mechanism that generally produces adaptive behavior. In addition, we highlight how this mechanism is based on a set of well-established cognitive processes, fundamental psychological principles that have been documented across many of the field’s sub-disciplines. After outlining the model and elaborating on the pervasive role of these core processes, we describe the model’s primary contributions, including its ability to guide paradigm creation. We conclude by describing recent data that supports the model, focusing on a robust within-subjects task that produces highly replicable behavioral priming effects.



Cooley, E., Payne, B. K., Loersch, C., & Lei, R. (2015). Who owns implicit attitudes? Testing a meta-cognitive perspective. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(1), 103-115. doi:10.1177/0146167214559712

Metacognitive inferences about ownership for one’s implicit attitudes have the power to turn implicit bias into explicit prejudice. In Study 1, participants were assigned to construe their implicit attitudes toward gay men as belonging to themselves (owned) or as unrelated to the self (disowned). Construing one’s implicit responses as owned led to greater implicit-explicit attitude correspondence. In Study 2, we measured ownership for implicit attitudes as well as self-esteem. We predicted that ownership inferences would dictate explicit attitudes to the degree that people had positive views of the self. Indeed, higher ownership for implicit bias was associated with greater implicit-explicit attitude correspondence, and this effect was driven by participants high in self-esteem. Finally, in Study 3, we manipulated inferences of ownership and measured self-esteem. Metacognitions of ownership affected implicit-explicit attitude correspondence but only among those with relatively high self-esteem. We conclude that subjective inferences about implicit bias affect explicit prejudice.



Ito, T. A., Friedman, N. P., Bartholow, B. D., Correll, J., Loersch, C., Altamirano, L., & Miyake, A., (2015). Toward a comprehensive understanding of executive cognitive function in implicit racial bias. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108(2), 187-218. doi:10.1037/a0038557

Although performance on laboratory-based implicit bias tasks often is interpreted strictly in terms of the strength of automatic associations, recent evidence suggests that such tasks are influenced by higher-order cognitive control processes, so-called executive functions (EFs). However, extant work in this area has been limited by failure to account for the unity and diversity of EFs, focus on only a single measure of bias and/or EF, and relatively small sample sizes. The current study sought to comprehensively model the relation between individual differences in EFs and the expression of racial bias in 3 commonly used laboratory measures. Participants (N = 485) completed a battery of EF tasks (Session 1) and 3 racial bias tasks (Session 2), along with numerous individual difference questionnaires. The main findings were as follows: (a) measures of implicit bias were only weakly intercorrelated; (b) EF and estimates of automatic processes both predicted implicit bias and also interacted, such that the relation between automatic processes and bias expression was reduced at higher levels of EF; (c) specific facets of EF were differentially associated with overall task performance and controlled processing estimates across different bias tasks; (d) EF did not moderate associations between implicit and explicit measures of bias; and (e) external, but not internal, motivation to control prejudice depended on EF to reduce bias expression. Findings are discussed in terms of the importance of global and specific EF abilities in determining expression of implicit racial bias.



Loersch, C., Bartholow, B. D., Manning, M., Calanchini, J., & Sherman, J. W. (2015). Intoxicated prejudice: The impact of alcohol consumption on implicitly and explicitly measured racial attitudes. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. doi:10.1177/1368430214561693

Recent research has shown that alcohol consumption can exacerbate expressions of racial bias by increasing reliance on stereotypes. However, little work has investigated how alcohol affects intergroup evaluations. The current work sought to address the issue in the context of the correspondence between implicit and explicit measures of anti-Black attitudes. Participants were randomly assigned to consume an alcoholic (target BrAC of 0.08%), placebo, or control beverage prior to completing implicit and explicit measures of racial attitudes. Although beverage condition did not affect prejudice levels on either measure, it did change the correlation between them. Implicitly measured attitudes significantly predicted explicit reports of prejudice and discrimination only for participants who consumed alcohol. We discuss the implications of our findings for debates regarding dissociations between implicit and explicit measures and the cultural phenomenon of intoxicated individuals attributing prejudiced statements to alcohol consumption rather than personal attitudes.



Loersch, C., & Payne, B. K. (2014). Situated inferences and the what, who, and where of priming. Social Cognition, 32(Special Issue: Understanding Priming Effects in Social Psychology), 137-151. doi:10.1521/soco.2014.32.supp.137

We describe the situated inference model and discuss how it may contribute to better understanding priming effects and their absence. The model suggests that priming effects result when primes make certain ideas more likely to come to mind and those ideas are misattributed to one's own thoughts, interpreted in light of situational affordances. This perspective organizes a range of moderators identified in previous priming studies. We also describe new research that has tested the model's predictions. Finally, we consider the implications of the model for debates about the nature and replicability of priming effects on higher order cognition and behavior.


REPRINTED AS: Loersch, C. & Payne, B. K. (2014). Situated inferences and the what, who, and where of priming. In D. C. Molden (Ed.), Understanding Priming Effects in Social Psychology (pp. 142 - 156). New York, NY: The Guilford Press. ISBN:978-1462519293


Loersch, C., & Arbuckle, N. L. (2013). Unraveling the mystery of music: Music as an evolved group process. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105(5), 777-789. doi:10.1037/a0033691

As prominently highlighted by Charles Darwin, music is one of the most mysterious aspects of human nature. Despite its ubiquitous presence across cultures and throughout recorded history, the reason humans respond emotionally to music remains unknown. Although many scientists and philosophers have offered hypotheses, there is little direct empirical evidence for any perspective. Here we address this issue, providing data which support the idea that music evolved in service of group living. Using 7 studies, we demonstrate that people's emotional responses to music are intricately tied to the other core social phenomena that bind us together into groups. In sum, this work establishes human musicality as a special form of social cognition and provides the first direct support for the hypothesis that music evolved as a tool of social living. In addition, the findings provide a reason for the intense psychological pull of music in modern life, suggesting that the pleasure we derive from listening to music results from its innate connection to the basic social drives that create our interconnected world.



SPPS “Editor-Recommended Article” (November 2013)
Loersch, C., Durso, G. R. O., & Petty, R. E. (2013). Vicissitudes of desire: A matching mechanism for subliminal persuasion. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4(5), 624-631. doi:10.1177/1948550612471975

Recent research on subliminal persuasion has documented effects primarily when people have a preexisting need related to the target of influence. Based on the situated inference model of priming effects (Loersch & Payne, 2011), we propose a novel matching mechanism and describe how it expands the circumstances under which subliminal primes can produce persuasive effects, doing so without a consideration of preexisting need states. In two studies, we alter the desirability of various products by selecting subliminal primes that address the basic questions participants consider while judging product desirability. Subliminal persuasion depends on the precise match between the subliminal primes and the question under consideration. These results are evident when the question participants consider varies naturally due to the type of product that is judged, and when the core question is directly manipulated by altering the aspect of a product on which participants focus.



DeMarree, K. G., Loersch, C., Briñol, P., Petty, R. E., Payne, B. K., & Rucker, D. D. (2012). From primed construct to motivated behavior: validation processes in goal pursuit. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(12), 1659–1670. doi:10.1177/0146167212458328

Past research has found that primes can automatically initiate unconscious goal striving. Recent models of priming have suggested that this effect can be moderated by validation processes. According to a goal-validation perspective, primes should cause changes in one's motivational state to the extent people have confidence in the prime-related mental content. Across three experiments, we provided the first direct empirical evidence for this goal-validation account. Using a variety of goal priming manipulations (cooperation vs. competition, achievement, and self-improvement vs. saving money) and validity inductions (power, ease, and writing about confidence), we demonstrated that the impact of goal primes on behavior occurs to a greater extent when conditions foster confidence (vs. doubt) in mental contents. Indeed, when conditions foster doubt, goal priming effects are eliminated or counter to the implications of the prime. The implications of these findings for research on goal priming and validation processes are discussed.



Loersch, C., & Payne, B. K. (2012). On mental contamination: The role of (mis)attribution in behavior priming. Social Cognition, 30, 241-252. doi:10.1521/soco.2012.30.2.241

Although source monitoring is an essential function of cognition, we often mistakenly identify the source of accessible information. This misattribution process can account for the influence of mood on judgment and has recently been proposed as a possible mechanism underlying the effect of conceptual primes on behavior. We provide evidence that attributional processes can indeed modulate the impact of primes on behavior. In two studies, primes were more likely to impact behavior when participants mis-attributed prime-related content to their own thoughts. When attributing this same content to an external source, the primes had no effect. This was true even with the use of subliminal primes, and for reflective and reflexive forms of behavior.



Loersch, C. & Bartholow, B. D. (2011). The color of safety: Ingroup associated colors make beer safer. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 190-194. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2010.09.001

Individuals display high levels of trust and express feelings of safety when interacting with social ingroup members. Here, we investigated whether cues related to ingroup membership would change perceptions of the safety of alcohol. Participants were exposed to images of beer in either a standard can or a can featuring the colors of their university (i.e., 'fan cans'). We hypothesized that exposure to fan cans would change perceptions of the risks of beer drinking. Results showed that participants exposed to fan cans rated beer consumption as less dangerous (Experiment 1), were more likely to automatically activate safety-related mental content after unconscious perception of beer cues (Experiment 2), and viewed their ingroup's party practices as less dangerous (Experiment 3). These results provide evidence that ingroup-associated colors can serve as a safety cue for alcohol, which may in theory perpetuate alcohol-related risk-taking, already a cause for concern on college and university campuses.



Loersch, C., McCaslin, M. J., & Petty, R. E. (2011). Exploring the impact of social judgeability concerns on the interplay of associative and deliberative attitude processes. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47, 1029-1032. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2011.03.024

Some recent research applying dual-systems logic suggests that different attitude measures reflect independent modes of evaluation with explicit measures primarily affected by deliberative processes and implicit measures primarily affected by automatic processes. In the current work we hypothesized that explicit attitude measures often do not reflect the outcome of automatic or associative processing because social judgeability concerns prevent people from reporting consciously inexplicable “gut feelings” towards the attitude object. To explore this possibility, we simultaneously presented participants with associative and deliberative information about a target person and manipulated their sensitivity to social judgeability concerns with different sets of task instructions. Although an explicit attitude measure was unaffected by subliminally presented associative information following a standard instruction set, this content did impact explicit judgments when social judgeability concerns were assuaged with a “go with your gut” instruction set.



2011's Best Social Cognition Paper - International Social Cognition Network
Loersch, C., & Payne, B. K. (2011). The situated inference model of priming: An integrative account of the effects of primes on perception, behavior, and motivation. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6, 234-252. doi:10.1177/1745691611406921

The downstream consequences of a priming induction range from changes in the perception of objects in the environment to the initiation of prime-related behavior and goal striving. Although each of these outcomes has been accounted for by separate mechanisms, we argue that a single process could produce all three priming effects. In this article, we introduce the situated inference model of priming, discuss its potential to account for these divergent outcomes with one mechanism, and demonstrate its ability to organize the priming literatures surrounding these effects. According to the model, primes often do not cause direct effects, instead altering only the accessibility of prime-related mental content. This information produces downstream effects on judgment, behavior, or motivation when it is mistakenly viewed as originating from one’s own internal thought processes. When this misattribution occurs, the prime-related mental content becomes a possible source of information for solving whatever problems are afforded by the current situation. Because different situations afford very different questions and concerns, the inferred meaning of this prime-related content can vary greatly. The use of this information to answer qualitatively different questions can lead a single prime to produce varied effects on judgment, behavior, and motivation.



Jones, C. R. M., & Loersch, C. (2010). Toward a psychological construct of enmity. In C. T. Lockhardt (Ed.), The Psychology of Hate (pp. 35-57). Hauppauge, NY: Nova Publishing. ISBN:978-1-61324-681-8

This chapter addresses a phenomenon pertinent to interpersonal hate: enmity. We first review the existing literature relevant to enemies, including a discussion of the relative neglect of this topic and the paucity of research on ―the dark side of relationships.‖ The remainder of the chapter addresses definitional, theoretical, and methodological issues in studying enmity. In particular, we provide a novel construct definition of interpersonal enmity in which an enemy is a person someone dislikes; believes is malevolent or threatening; and wishes some degree of social, psychological, or physical harm upon. The benefits of this approach over other conceptualizations are discussed, as are multiple unresolved issues in conceptualizing enmity. The remainder of the chapter discusses future directions for research on enemy relationships including different classes or types of enemies, the integration of enemies with the self, the influence of enmity on person perception, and the role of individual differences in the development of enemy relations. Finally, we argue for the need to move beyond questionnaire and interview methodologies and discuss the benefits which can be obtained by more rigorous hypothesis testing and experimental design in this research area.



DeMarree, K. G., & Loersch, C. (2009). Who am I and who are you? Priming and the influence of self versus other focused attention. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 45, 440-443.doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2008.10.009

Recent research has demonstrated that primes can affect self-perceptions, and that subsequent behavior is typically in line with these changed self-perceptions. However, a wide range of other priming effects have been documented, including changes in person perception, motivation, and so forth. The conditions under which a given prime affects the self as opposed to creating one of these other outcomes remains unclear. The present research seeks to offer insight into this question by examining attentional factors as one determinant of whether the self or another target will be biased by a prime. Across two studies, manipulating attention to the self (or an irrelevant target) immediately following a prime produced assimilation in behavior (Experiment 1) and self-perceptions (Experiment 2) when participants thought about themselves, but not an irrelevant target. In addition, when participants thought about an unrelated target, perceptions of this target, but not the self, were changed (Experiment 2).



Petty, R. E., Briñol, P., Loersch, C., & McCaslin, M. J. (2009). The need for cognition. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 318-329). New York, NY: Guilford Press. ISBN-13:978-1593856472

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Loersch, C., Aarts, H., Payne, B. K., & Jefferis, V. E. (2008). The influence of social groups on goal contagion. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 1555-1558. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2008.07.009

Goal contagion is the automatic adoption of a goal upon perceiving another’s goal-directed behavior (Aarts, H., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Hassin, R. R. (2004). Goal contagion: Perceiving is for pursuing. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87(1), 23–37). This paper tests the hypothesis that goal contagion is more likely between people who belong to the same groups. Because past work on goal contagion has required participants to read about the behavior of others, we also test whether goals are caught when one sees rather than reads about another’s motivated behavior. Across three studies, this ecologically valid methodology reliably produced goal contagion, and this effect was more likely to emerge when participants shared a group membership with those they observed. In Study 1, participants were more likely to take on the goal of individuals who belonged to their same university. Study 2 demonstrated that this effect occurred even when participants were not explicitly focused on the group membership of others. A final study verified that our effects were motivational by demonstrating that failing at a goal relevant task increased negative affect, but only for those who viewed the motivated behavior of someone from their own group.



Loersch, C., Kopp, B., & Petty, R. E. (2007). Attitude change. In R. Baumeister & K. Vohs (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social psychology (Vol. 1, pp. 61-65). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. ISBN:9781412916707

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