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John Bargh

John A. Bargh
Born (1955-01-09)January 9, 1955
Champaign, Illinois
Fields Social psychology
Institutions Yale University
Alma mater University of Michigan (Ph.D., 1981)
New York University
Known for Perception-Behavior Link, Goal-Activation, Unconscious Processing
Influences Robert Zajonc

John A. Bargh (/ˈbɑːr/; born 1955) is a social psychologist currently working at Yale University, where he has formed the Automaticity in Cognition, Motivation, and Evaluation (ACME) Laboratory. Bargh’s work focuses on automaticity and unconscious processing as a method to better understand social behavior, as well as philosophical topics such as free will. Much of Bargh's work investigates whether behaviors thought to be under volitional control may result from automatic interpretations of and reactions to external stimuli, such as words.

Bargh is particularly famous for his demonstrations of priming affecting action. One of the most well-known of these studies reported that reading words related to elderliness (e.g., "Florida", "Bingo") caused subjects to walk slower when exiting the laboratory, compared to subjects who read words unrelated to the elderly. Though cited almost 4,000 times, controversy has emerged because several recent studies failed to replicate the finding. Starting in 2013 and 2014, many additional reports began to emerge of failures to replicate findings from Bargh's lab. These included "social distance priming" and "achievement goal priming" and lonely people's preferences for hot baths. (However, in 2015 there was report of a successful replication of the association between loneliness and bathing habits, published in the journal Emotion, indicating a possible role for cultural differences in this case.) In March 2015 yet another paper from Bargh lab was reported to be unreproducible: Rotteveel and colleagues sought to duplicate two studies by Chen & Bargh (1999) arguing that objects are evaluated automatically, triggering a tendency to approach or avoid.

Bargh was born in Champaign, Illinois. He attended the University of Illinois as an undergraduate, and the University of Michigan for post-graduate training under Robert Zajonc. He received his Ph.D. in 1981. That same year he was hired as an assistant professor at New York University, where he remained for 22 years. He has since been working at Yale where he has formed the Automaticity in Cognition, Motivation, and Evaluation (ACME) Laboratory.

  • Morsella, E., Bargh, J. A., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (2009). Oxford handbook of human action. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Hassin, R., Uleman, J., & Bargh, J. (Eds.). (2005). The new unconscious. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Gollwitzer, P. M., & Bargh, J. A. (Eds.). (1996). The psychology of action: Linking motivation and cognition to behavior. New York: Guilford Publications.
  • Uleman, J. S., & Bargh, J. A. (Eds.). (1989). Unintended thought. New York: Guilford Publications.
  • Ackerman, J. M., Nocera, C. C., & Bargh, J. A. (2010). Incidental haptic sensations influence social judgments and decisions. Science.
  • Bargh, J. A., Chen, M., & Burrows, L. (1996). Automaticity of social behavior: Direct effects of trait construct and stereotype priming on action. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 230-244.
  • Bargh, J. A., & Chartrand, T. L. (1999). The unbearable automaticity of being. American Psychologist, 54, 462-479.
  • Bargh, J. A., & Ferguson, M. L. (2000). Beyond behaviorism: On the automaticity of higher mental processes. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 925-945.
  • Bargh, J. A., Gollwitzer, P. M., Lee-Chai, A. Y., Barndollar, K., & Troetschel, R. (2001). The automated will: Nonconscious activation and pursuit of behavioral goals. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81, 1014-1027.
  • Bargh, J. A., & McKenna, K. Y. A. (2004). The Internet and social life. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 573-590.
  • Bargh, J. A. (2006). What have we been priming all these years? On the development, mechanisms, and ecology of nonconscious social behavior. European Journal of Social Psychology [Agenda 2006 article]
  • Bargh, J. A. & Earp, B. D. (2009). The will is caused, not free. Dialogues, Society of Personality and Social Psychology, 24 (1), 13-15. pdf.
  • Chartrand, T. L., & Bargh, J. A. (1999). The chameleon effect: The perception-behavior link and social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 893-910.
  • Chen, S., Lee-Chai, A. Y., & Bargh, J. A. (2001). Relationship orientation as a moderator of the effects of social power. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 173-187.
  • Dijksterhuis, A., & Bargh, J. A. (2001). The perception-behavior expressway: Automatic effects of social perception on social behavior. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 33, pp. 1–40). San Diego: Academic Press.
  • Duckworth, K. L. Bargh, J. A. Garcia M. and Chaiken.S. (2002). The automatic evaluation of novel stimuli. Psychol Sci, 13, 513-9 DOI
  • Ferguson, M.J. & Bargh, J.A. (2004). Liking is for doing: The effects of goal pursuit on automatic evaluation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 87, 557-572.
  • Ferguson, M. J., Bargh, J. A., & Nayak, D. A. (2005). After-affects: How automatic evaluations influence the interpretation of subsequent, unrelated stimuli. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 41, 182-191.
  • Huang, J. Y., Song, H., & Bargh, J. A. (2011). Smooth trajectories travel farther into the future: Perceptual fluency effects on prediction of trend continuation. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(2), 506-508. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2010.12.002
  • Uhlmann, E., Poehlman, T., Tannenbaum, D., & Bargh, J. A. (2011). Implicit puritanism in American moral cognition. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 47(2), 312-320. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2010.10.013
  • Williams, L.W., Nocera, C.C., Gray, J.R., Bargh, J.A. (2009). The unconscious regulation of emotion: nonconscious reappraisal goals modulate emotional reactivity. Emotion. 2009 Dec;9(6):847-54.


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