Paris: City of love. New York: The city that never sleeps. Hamburg: The Reeperbahn. Jerusalem: The Holy City.

These pairings are only few examples of specific contents people associate with cities or other places. True or not, correspondences of this kind are represented in memory and may pop into mind when people are asked about their knowledge of certain cities. For example, if you are asked to tell a friend what you think about New York, you may recall the many galleries in Chelsea, the roaring nightlife and the clumsy, Woody-Allen-like neurotic genius who avoids your glances.

Over the last decades, researchers in social psychology have made enormous progress in understanding how these sorts of stereotypes are represented in memory (e.g., Collins & Loftus, 1975; Higgins, 1996; Higgins et al., 1977; Huber et al., 2001; Wyer, 2004; Wyer & Radvansky, 1999). More relevant for this chapter, social psychology shows that representations of this nature influence people’s feelings, thinking, and behavior (for reviews, see Dijksterhuis & Bargh, 2001; Förster & Liberman, 2007).

Maybe the most provocative insight from this research is that representations like these can influence the behavior of people even without them knowing or desiring it (Moskowitz et al., 2004). Such outcomes are called “priming effects.” I first summarize classic research focusing on human judgments and behavior and suggest that even creative thinking can be affected by unconscious activation of stereotypes.

I then outline research that social psychologists have conducted on creative thinking and continue by arguing that some cities are associated with creativity. I suggest that such thinking works like a self-fulfilling prophecy, that is, that the creativity of people increases when they are reminded of a creative place. I then recount an experiment in which undergraduate participants were exposed to the names of particular cities so briefly that conscious recognition of the names was impossible (subliminal presentation).

I also report the results of a posttest showing whether this exposure influenced the participants’ performance on a creativity task, the prediction being that the creativity of the participants would be automatically increased when they were subconsciously reminded of cities that they associated with a creative milieu.

Jens Förster

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