This article discusses some of the unintended effects of image priming in commercial advertisements. The author discusses a study analyzing the priming effects of television food advertising on eating behavior that in his words, “shows in undeniable terms that advertising is a powerful real-world prime for both children and adults.” However, the commercials were not necessarily promoting favorability toward the consumption of the product advertised, but rather the consumption of whatever food the viewer had access to.
In one experiment, 120 grade school children individually viewed a kids' cartoon show; half were shown food ads during the show, the other half saw ads not associated with food. A bowl of “goldfish” crackers (not one of the food products advertised) were given to the children while they watched. The study showed that kids who watched the snack ads during the show consumed 45% more crackers than kids who watched non-food ads.
The priming effect is blatantly obvious here, and it shows just how serious this effect can be. Although the ads promote a particular product to consume, viewers were simply primed to eat anything put in front of them. The ads activated an implicit motivational goal to eat, which was pursued automatically by the viewers. As soon as the snacks were provided, the pursuit to achieve this implicit motivational goal was initiated, without any conscious awareness from the viewer.