Do We Control Situations or Do Situations Control Us? With John Bargh

Can we control our unconscious behavior? How much does the situation we’re in control us? Can we prime people to behave a certain way? Is it even ethical to try? To what degree do cultural identity and stereotyping impact the automaticity of our actions?

Following on from our discussion with Dr Philip Zimbardo PhD, in our last episode (#247) about the Stanford Prison Experiment, we reached out to our friend and previous guest (episode #155), Dr John Bargh PhD, social psychologist at Yale University. As the world’s leading expert on the unconscious mind, John gave us fresh insight on how our behavior is primed by factors such as our cultural identity and even by who we are thinking about.

Interestingly our conversation shifted towards changing attitudes in society and in particular the inspiration stance that athletes such as Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka have taken recently to prioritize their mental health. John describes them as pioneers: “what pioneers and leaders do is they give an alternative example for the other people and say, “You know what, you don’t have to do this, here’s what I did.””

In our last interview with John, he left us with some parting wisdom; to hug our children more. We couldn’t resist asking him for some more wise words, so listen to the end to find out John’s advice to all of us.

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Topics we discuss with John Bargh

(3:58) Welcome to John Bargh and speed round questions.

(7:50) Nature vs nurture?

(11:51) A summary of John’s research on automaticity and priming.

(15:04) How you activate a different cultural identity.

(19:42) How did the Stanford Prison Experiment impact social psychology research?

(25:09) Do we control situations or do situations control us?

(30:14) Can you prime someone to commit murder?

(35:17) How Simone Biles is an example of changing attitudes in society.

(37:14) Are employees starting to self-select which corporation they work for?

(44:29) What direction is the research on priming and automaticity heading in the future?

(47:33) What research is John engaged in right now?

(50:08) How can we prevent ourselves from being influenced by our context?

(52:46) John’s wise parting advice.

(56:28) Grooving Session with Kurt and Tim discussing the interview.

© 2021 Behavioral Grooves


AIRDATE: August 22, 2021 EPISODE 248

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Do We Control Situations or Do Situations Control Us? With John Bargh