Priming is a psychological phenomenon where exposure to one stimulus influences the response to a subsequent stimulus. The classic case is Pavlov’s dog. A dog is shown food and begins to salivate from hunger. Next, a bell is rung, and the dog is given food. In the experiment, the bell primes the dogs for a meal. After several repetitions, the dog learns to salivate at the sound of the bell in anticipation of the meal whether food is provided or not.
Priming can influence the automaticity of behavior. When a behavior is repeatedly primed, it can become more automatic, leading to the formation of a habit. This is because priming strengthens the connections between neural pathways associated with the behavior, making it easier to engage in that behavior without conscious thought.
Over time, this automaticity can make it challenging to break the habit, as the behavior becomes deeply ingrained in the individual’s neural network.
Various priming activities that I use include sending myself recurring emails reminders to elevate my mood, setting alarms in my calendar for meditation or to start winding down at night for sleep, strategically placing meaningful artwork where I work, and listening to music before and during exercise. These priming triggers all help reinforce healthy behaviors.