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Media effects refer to how mass media affects its audience in decision making. Priming is considered as the predecessor of agenda setting, one of the theories of media effects.  Priming has its base in cognitive psychology which relates to associative network model of human memory. This concept details how one thought may generate associated thoughts.

priming in media

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Priming is a concept through which the media effects among the people are enhanced by providing a basic perception human minds take decisions based on the preconceptions that are already been stored in our memory. The memories are stored as a form of nodes and they are interconnected effectively and mostly act as a frame of reference to the decisions that we make.

Priming enables the audience to evaluate the situation and to conclude how effective the media have been in order to make a decision by providing a frame of reference. Thus media creates an influence among people to make judgement or a decision.

Priming has been particularly evaluated during the elections and while choosing the right candidate. Particularly when it comes to politics where people lack the knowledge concerning political matters, they base their decisions on the information from the media which actually influences their decision making on whom to elect. This theory was put forward by Iyengar, Peters, and Kender in 1982 and labelled it as the priming effect.

Priming is an important concept in media effects. As agenda setting brings out only the importance of the issue, priming offers explanation on how the information from the media are stored in the human mind and how it influences in making decisions. Media affect the judgement or behavior by stimulating the associating thoughts which are caused due to the mental relationships created inside the memory.

The media effects have impact on particular aspects while ignoring the others. The prominence shown in the media for any issue becomes a major factor in creating an impact in a person’s judgement. This can cause to less concern on the more important issue. For e.g.- the news that is flashing on the headline on a television or the report coming on the front page of the newspaper are more likely to create an impact than the less prominent news coming subsequently.


Priming is used to evaluate the media effects among the people. As it is a media centred world, the studies regarding the media effects are vital. Researches are implemented applying the priming concept to understand the impact of TV programmes and violent behaviour among the viewers. Even during the elections, the campaigns are used to emphasis certain issues and how it influences the people in choosing the right candidate has been observed by applying this concept.


The media easily influence children and their behaviour can be based on the contents shown in the television. For e.g. a child tends to enact the qualities of their favourite character in movies and tend to display their characteristics.

And also the government can highlight a particular issue through the media ignoring issues which might be less or more important. For e.g. government highlight issues concerning economic development ignoring environmental issues which are equally important. As the media covers the issue primed by the government, the people are influence by the prominent news ignoring others as obscure.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • ramson acheme July 31, 2014, 6:17 pm

    I think Priming theory is an offshoot of other communication theories such like Catharsis, Agenda-Setting, and other related Theories. Priming should be classified as an effect of media messages instead of calling it a theory. it is nothing more than multiplicity of communication theories, especially when its basis is been well covered by other kind of communication theories. Catharsis theory already explains that the depiction of violence in the mass media, in a way discourages viewers from violent behiour and anti-catharsis theory said the reverse. in similar vain, the Agenda-setting theory explains that the mass media prioritize issues in the society and gain the attention of the masses by reinforcing message. the effect of the last two theories is the Spiral of Silence theory, where people become afraid of being isolated from the popular views, as postulated by the media.

  • Chukwudera January 19, 2017, 6:34 pm

    Please can you help me with journals where i can find more details of priming theory. Preferably, PDF materials. this is my mail address. ezechukwudera@gmail.com. thanks

  • Wina Gozales May 10, 2017, 6:58 pm

    Hi i am just wondering if you can help me for my thesis about perceived attributes of an advisory and i use Priming as my theory i have check all the sites that i can but i do not see the author of this theory i hope you can help me thankyou so much

  • Darine February 16, 2022, 7:05 am

    I am working on a thesis about cultural journalism, and I need more information about Priming theory to know if it is the suitable theory for my thesis. Can you help me?

  • James jauro June 5, 2022, 5:50 am

    The explanations on priming has helped me greatly, thanks a bunch.

  • Boo Ali November 18, 2023, 11:17 am

    I thought maybe or maybe not, priming should be classified as an effect of media messages instead of calling it a theory.

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