Implicit threat, self-regulatory resources, and cognitive performance

Bertrams, Alex; Baumeister, Roy F.; Lichtenfeld, Stephanie; Englert, Christoph (11 September 2013). Implicit threat, self-regulatory resources, and cognitive performance (Unpublished). In: 13th biannual congress of the Swiss Psychological Society (SPS) - Crossing borders. Basel, Switzerland. 11.09.-12.09.2013.

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The color red has been considered to indicate threat in achievement contexts. Recent studies have used brief confrontations with red — either as the color or as the word red — to prime for implicit threat, and have found a related impairment of cognitive performance. In another line of research, it has been shown that initial self-regulatory efforts cause diminished investment of self-regulatory resources afterwards, leading to a relative shift from a controlled to an automatic mode of information processing. We assume that activation of implicit threat via the color or the word red impairs cognitive performance more strongly during automatic compared to controlled processing of information. To test this hypothesis, we manipulated undergraduates’ (n = 78) momentary processing mode (automatic vs. controlled) by an initial task that required either high or low self-regulatory effort. Afterwards, participants were briefly confronted with red or gray stimuli and were then asked to complete a standardized intelligence measure. As expected, confrontation with red, as opposed to gray, impaired intellectual performance when participants were in an automatic processing mode. In contrast, no color effect emerged when participants were in a relatively controlled processing mode. In a second study, we replicated this finding in a sample of secondary school students (n = 130), using the black-printed word red or gray to experimentally manipulate implicit threat. Among others, the present findings may help to explain occasional difficulties in replicating findings of priming research.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Education > Educational Psychology
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Education

UniBE Contributor:

Bertrams, Alexander Gregor, Englert, Christoph


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 370 Education




Alexander Gregor Bertrams-Pencik

Date Deposited:

13 May 2015 16:17

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:46


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