Media Effects Research Lab - Research Archive

“Video is So Cool, It Makes you Warm!”: The Effects of Mediated Priming on Prosocial Behaviors

Student Researcher(s)

Meng-Qi Liao (Masters Candidate); Olivia Reed (Masters Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

This paper was based on a project as part of the COMM 517 course.



The strength and existence of temperature priming on interpersonal warmness have been countered with questionable replication results. In this paper, we provide a new take on Bargh’s classic priming study (2008) by testing the effects of mediated coffee advertisements on subsequent interpersonal judgments. Modality of the content could have influences on priming effects either through changing individual’s perceptual bandwidth (Reeves & Nass, 2000), or through direct triggering of cognitive heuristics (Sundar, 2008). Specifically, temperature priming stimuli with three different modalities (picture, video, animation) were examined in this study.



H1: Individuals who are exposed to warm drinks stimuli will rate the job candidate as having 1a) a warm personality, be 1b) more likely to recommend the candidate for hire, have 1c) more positive brand attitudes, and have 1d) higher intentions to participate in an additional survey.

H2: Individuals who are exposed to warm drinks in a video or an animation format are more likely to 2a) have more positive attitudes towards the ads brands, 2b) perceive the writer to have warmer personality, 2c) have higher likelihood to recommend the candidate to be hired, and 2d) have higher intentions to participate in an additional survey than people who are exposed to warm drinks in a picture format.

H3: Individuals who are exposed to cold drinks in a video format or an animation format are more likely to 3a) have more negative attitudes towards the ads brands, 3b) perceive the writer to have colder personality, 3c) have less likelihood to recommend the candidate to be hired, 3d) have less intentions to participate in an additional survey than people who are exposed to cold drinks in a picture format.



A 2x3 between-subjects factorial experiment (n = 219) was conducted to determine the relationship between drink temperature advertised (warm / cold) and modality of the advertisement (picture / video / animation). Students were exposed to one of six advertisements on the loading page before being shown a brief bio of a potential candidate for the university’s newspaper staff. Participants were then instructed to answer a survey which measured impressions of the candidate, attitudes toward the brand in the advertisement, and willingness to participate in another survey.



This study did not find main effects of temperature on prosocial thoughts and judgments of others. However, significant effects of temperature priming on brand attitudes were found when moderated by modality. Cold drink ads presented in video format were less likely to result in a negative attitude toward the brand than a cold drink ad presented in a picture format, F (2, 213) = 3.21, p < .05, η2 = .03. Surprisingly, a main effect of modality was found on people’s intention to give the researcher a favor, video ads will lead the participants to be significantly more willing to participate in another survey than a picture ad, regardless of the temperature of the drinks  χ2 (2, N = 219) = 6.59, V* = .17, p < .05.

In addition, Priming effects of temperature on the perceived personality of others and prosocial behaviors were found to be significant when mediated by attitudes toward the brand. Specifically, exposure to cold drinks in picture format, compared to video format, led to more negative attitudes toward the brand which led to interpersonally colder perceptions of the candidate’s personality and lower intentions to recommend the candidate to be hired (See Table 2).

Table 2


In sum, the findings indicate that the effect of temperature will be mitigated if the modality of the ad is a video. Additionally, advertisements presented in a video format will facilitate prosocial behaviors regardless of the primed temperature.

Possible explanations could be the coolness heuristic triggered when participants are interacting with richer media (Sundar, 2008) that lead them to have more positive impressions towards the media content. Interacting with richer media could also result in more positive affect which would serve as the information sources of participants’ subsequent judgments and behaviors (Schwarz, 2012).

This study has both important theoretical implications for priming and modality research, as well as practical implications for health communication practitioners, advertisers, and job applicants. 



Reeves, B., & Nass, C. (2000). Perceptual user interfaces: perceptual bandwidth. Communications of the ACM, 43(3), 65–70.

Sundar, S. S. (2008). The MAIN model: A heuristic approach to understanding technology effects on credibility. In M. Metzger & A. Flanagin (Eds.), Digital media, youth, and credibility (pp. 73-100). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Williams, L. E., & Bargh, J. A. (2008). Experiencing physical warmth promotes interpersonal warmth. Science, 322(5901), 606-607. Retrieved from <Go to ISI>://WOS:000260299100048. doi:10.1126/science.1162548

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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