A meta-analysis assessed the behavioral impact of and psychological processes associated with presenting words connected to an action or a goal representation. The average and distribution of 352 effect sizes (analyzed using fixed-effects and random-effects models) was obtained from 133 studies (84 reports) in which word primes were incidentally presented to participants, with a nonopposite control group, before measuring a behavioral dependent variable. Findings revealed a small behavioral priming effect (dFE 0.332, dRE 0.352), which was robust across methodological procedures and only minimally biased by the publication of positive (vs. negative) results. Theory testing analyses indicated that more valued behavior or goal concepts (e.g., associated with important outcomes or values) were associated with stronger priming effects than were less valued behaviors. Furthermore, there was some evidence of persistence of goal effects over time. These results support the notion that goal activation contributes over and above perception-behavior in explaining priming effects. In summary, theorizing about the role of value and satisfaction in goal activation pointed to stronger effects of a behavior or goal concept on overt action. There was no evidence that expectancy (ease of achieving the goal) moderated priming effects.
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