According to Bryant Thomson, priming is a process that occurs when one’s exposure to mediated communication activates some related thoughts that were previously stored in his or her mind. Messages passed through the media, for example in terms of adverts often trigger thoughts, concepts, learning or even knowledge that has been leant in the past and that is related to the message content. This process is what constitutes “priming” and in addition to just activating related thoughts and concepts, it can also influence behavior. This paper seeks to explore this concept by using an example of a media advert that leads to the priming effect, such as the activation of related thoughts and how it consequently shapes behavior. The media advert that is going to be utilized is a New Zealand anti-speeding advert titled “Mistakes”. The advert has gone viral across the world because of its high emotionally charged content.
The advert comprises of two drivers in a time freeze discussing about some of the mistakes that led to an accident involving their two cars. A man in one car that is coming from the right approaches an intersection and checks both sides of the road like a good driver. The man has a son seated on the back seat. The man sees a car coming hastily at him from the right but he stills pulls into the intersection. The other car is coming at a very fast speed and just as they are about to collide, time is frozen and both men get out of the car. The father tries to apologize claiming that he thought he had time to pull out safely into the intersection. The other man says that he has no time to stop because he is driving at a very high speed. The father then asks the other driver to consider his son seated at the back, but the driver states that he is going too fast and cannot therefore slow down. Both drivers then back into their cars and line up for a massive collision. The father takes a final look at his son with an apologetic face and a glance at the second car’s speedometer reveals it is travelling at a speed of 110 kmph. The two cars eventually meet in what appears to be a fatal collision.
As observed in the above discussion, this advert is emotionally charged and when I watched for the first time, I was reduced to tears. The advert brought back some thoughts if a horrifying accident that I witnessed earlier as a child. This accident took place when a speeding SUV trying to overtake a truck on a one-lane road met an oncoming care and the two fatally collided. The advert also brought out some thoughts of myself speeding on the city roads, something that I do quite often whenever my parents lets me use their car. In addition, the article brought back memories of some near death experiences that I have witnessed on the roads, for instance, a situation whereby a driver steps on the emergency break just in time before he hits a pedestrian who has was attempting to cross the road hastily without observing both sides of the road. I believe that this is a classic example of the priming effect whereby a media message activates some extra thoughts or ideas previously stored in memory.
This activation of ideas is likely to influence my behavior in the future. For instance, I am now a very conscious driver whenever I am on the roads. I am unlikely to ever speed again on the road because the advert has exposed me to the consequences of even one little mistake on the roads. This is indeed the message that the creator of the “Mistakes” advert hoped to bring out the audience and hopefully shape their behavior. The shaping of behavior in this case refers to slowing down while on the roads especially when approaching an intersection.
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