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Prime and Prompt


Techniques General persuasion > More methods > Prime and Prompt

Description | Example | Discussion | See also




First prime the other person, implanting suggestions, information and other memories. This can include biases, emphasis and other ways to make particular elements more important.

Priming can be used to prepare people for specific thoughts or actions. It can also act as a more general nudge that encourages the target person to think in a particular way (or at least not in an undesirable way).

Priming can be subtle and unconscious, such as with the use of linguistic patterning. It can also be deliberate and conscious, such as in training exercises. It can be short and take only a moment, such as in mentioning one word, or it can repeated a number of times to embed a prompted response into memory.


When the person is primed, next use a persuasive method that will result in the primed information being recalled by a careful prompt that stimulates recall of the information or triggers the defined action.

Prompting can be via various sensory stimuli, from a single word to a particular image or even a sequence of events. It can even be a physical action, such as a touch or collision.


A sales person puts up images of racing leopards in the showroom in order to prime customers with thoughts of speed. She then sells fast cars, using speed- and excitement-based language.

A football team trains hard so that any action by the opposing side acts as a prompt to automatically trigger the primed response.

A parent talks over breakfast about a news story where a child was abducted. Later, they ask the child to take care going to school, which the child does with greater attention than if they had not heard the abduction story.


Priming works by providing them with information that is easily brought to mind. The prompt that brings the information to mind can be an implanted and specific trigger or can be an associated term that will naturally bring back the primed information.

Prime-and-prompt can be a bit like firing a gun, where priming cocks and prompting pulls the trigger. It can also be less precise, a bit like steering a ship where turning tiller pushes the ship in the desired direction, though the accuracy of this may not be very great.

In many cases, prime-and-prompt acts like a nudge and can work well as a part of a coordinated overall approach, rather than the only method being used. In this form it can be subtle and unseen.

In its most extreme form, prime-and-prompt enacts the sleeper effect, where a person is primed to enact a specific action sequence on a given signal. This has been used in a number of action movies and is the basis for the original 'Manchurian Candidate' theme.

See also

Priming principle, Conditioning

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