My ongoing sigil adventures have got me thinking.
In one of those bibliomantic synchronicities that befalls voluminous readers such as ourselves, I may have been steered me in a more agreeable direction.
It was whilst reading Blink on the tube home that I re-encountered the notion of priming.
The book itself doesn’t open with the same high impact as most of Gladwell’s other efforts and -to be honest- I was finding the argument for rapid cognition to be a little slim.
It’s not. It just the book opens with a quirky rather than a high impact anecdote.
Anyway, I had decided to give the book one last commute home to get good before I shelved it. (I don’t read books all the way through if they aren’t worth it.) And the book saved itself from early retirement by reintroducing me to:
Priming is something I remember learning in a class called Communication and Information Environments. Beyond that I haven’t given it much thought because I tend to think positive thinking is a dangerous modern thought virus. (Note that I consider being a happy person as a completely separate notion. Obviously.)
On second reading, I would say priming is an idea that will resonate with most magical folk. And may have some application for my sigil question.
- In 1996, John Bargh, a Yale psychologist, created a test where subjects were implicitly primed with words that related to old age (‘Florida’, ‘elderly’, ‘retired’, etc) in some simple sentence games. After the test, the subjects moved slower as if they had themselves aged.
- A similar test was performed using violent or aggressive words. The subjects were then asked to go to a room at the end of the hall where they found someone (an actor) blocking the door and carrying on a conversation with someone inside the room. Those that had been exposed to the aggressive words spoke up much sooner than those that hadn’t.
- Here’s the scariest one: A 1995 test conducted with black students using 20 college entrance questions found that the number of items they got correct was cut in half if they were asked to identify their race at the beginning of an exam. In. Half.
So clearly, even in muggle-land, your daily life and performance can vary in the most wild and extreme ways simply based on the words and images you are exposed to. (Sidebar: Think of the implications of this for kids growing up in disadvantaged areas.)
What happens if, like ourselves, you live at the spookier end of the reality spectrum?
The implied magical connection
So we have
- Priming: Undisputed psychological data that reading or looking at words can drastic affect your mental state and thus the world around you.
- Sigils: A proven magical technology based on the idea of mashing words down into the unconscious to deliver a real world outcome.
You can see how these two ideas hang in the air near each other like soap bubbles. Any next step in trying to bridge them is speculating beyond the data.
I know it’s super-tempting to leave a comment ‘explaining’ how these ideas link up. But don’t. Just keep those two ideas near each other as soap bubbles. Here’s a good discussion piece on priming to get you… Uh…. Primed.
Also maybe think about the implications of priming on your other magical activities. I’m thinking in particular about divination. How much does staring at a bunch of words and pictures on cards create a self-fulfillment loop in yours or your client’s brain. Is there any way you can use that?
Comments and suggestions please.