In their seminal series of experiments, Bargh Chen and Burrows 
demonstrated that activating a trait construct such as “being old” is sufficient to elicit behavioral effects in the absence of awareness. Bargh et al.'s demonstration involved asking participants to indicate which word was the odd one out amongst an ensemble of scrambled words a number of which, when rearranged, form a sentence. Unbeknownst to participants, the word left out of the sentence was systematically related to the concept of “being old”. The beauty of the experiment lies in its unusual dependent measure: walking speed. Those participants who had been exposed to words related to old age walked slower when exiting the laboratory than the participants who had not been so exposed. Further, the effect was claimed to occur without awareness, as participants were found not having noticed the link between exposure and their behavior 
. This striking finding, now widely cited, established that priming may occur automatically and influence behavior with little or no awareness. It subsequently generated considerable further research in social psychology 
Here, we sought to replicate Bargh et al's 
experiments. This was motivated by three main reasons. The first is simply that the finding, influential as it is, was only replicated twice so far, with neither replication being exact. The first replication 
required participants to rate the walking speed of a character drawn on a sheet of paper after they had been primed with extreme exemplars associated to the concept of “speed” (e.g.: cheetah vs. turtle). The study found the expected priming effect. However, despite the fact that both this study and Bargh et al's share the same theoretical grounding, the latter only tells us of a bias in judgments of speed, as it did not require participants to actually perform any behavior. The second 
replication aimed at refining Bargh et al's results by exploring the substantial variability exhibited by participants in their priming effect. The authors managed to replicate the results on walking speed, but the replication, like the original study, can be questioned based on imprecise timing methods (see below for a critical description).
Our second motivation was more conceptual. In social cognition, the assumption that high level semantic priming can occur automatically and outside of conscious awareness is almost taken for granted 
. Yet, this assumption conflicts with evidences accumulated in cognitive neuroscience. For instance, several authors 
suggest that two factors are necessary to produce the large patterns of neural activation in higher association cortices that are essential for semantic priming to occur: Top-down attention to the prime and bottom-up stimulus strength (e.g.: its saliency to the participants). Such a pattern of activation can be the signature of semantic processing of the prime 
and is typically associated with conscious awareness 
. In Bargh et al.'s experiments 2a and 2b, however, neither of these features were present. Thus, in view of the semantic priming literature, the salience of a concept such as “being old” seems too weak to automatically prime a behavior that is further only indirectly related to old age (i.e., through the concept of slowness), in the absence of any contextual cues relevant to this trait. In Bargh et al.'s account, the association between the categorical prime (old age) and walking speed (a behavior) is mediated by the automatic activation a stereotypical trait (slowness).
The absence of conscious awareness of the relation between the prime and the behavior is considered as evidence that this activation is indeed automatic.
Our third motivation is methodological. Some aspects of Bargh et al.'s 
experiment's 2a and 2b remain unspecified yet impinge on the interpretation of the results. In particular, we see three potential challenges with the methods of the original study:
First, in the original study, participants' walking speed was measured by a confederate posted in the hallway adjacent to the experiment room. The confederate was unaware of whether a participant had been primed or not. The purpose of this setup was to ensure that the experiment was following a double-blind principle. However, no such precautionary measures are reported concerning the experimenter who administered the task to the participants. Numerous studies, however, have indicated that the experimenter's expectations can influence participants' behavior 
even in the most controlled experimental environments 
. In Bargh et al.'s study, the experimenter who administered the task could thus very well have been aware of whether the participant was in the prime condition or not and tune his or her behavior accordingly. This possibility was in fact confirmed informally in our own study, as we found that it was very easy, even unintentionally, to discover the condition in which a particular participant takes part by giving a simple glimpse to the priming material. Experimenters could thus unwittingly have communicated their expectations to participants 
and influenced their walking speed. Thus, given the fact that subtle cues can influence our behavior 
, controlling for the experimenter's expectations appears to be essential.
Second, walking speed was measured using a manual stopwatch — a method that is prone to error and bias. Manual chronometry requires extra precautions 
which appear to be absent from the original study.
Third, after the experiments, participants were debriefed using the contingency funnel procedure 
so as to assess, through increasingly specific questions, (1) whether they were aware of the purpose of the study and (2) whether they were aware of the fact that the words used in the scrambled sentences task were related to the concept of old age. Only 1 out of 19 participants 
(p.237) were found to be aware of the influence of the primes, — a finding that formed the basis for the claim that the effect of stereotype activation on behavior is unconscious. However, it remains unclear exactly what participants claimed to be unaware of. As Nisbett and Wilson 
famously pointed out, participants can remain (1) unaware of the stimulus, (2) unaware of their response, or (3) unaware of the fact that the stimulus importantly influenced the response. Thus, we set out to improve on the tests of awareness originally used by Bargh et al. 
in hopes of better delineating exactly what people were aware of in this situation.
In the following, we report on two studies aimed specifically at replicating the original findings while improving on its design and exploring the extent to which the experimenter's own expectancies may influence the results. In Experiment 1
, we sought to replicate the original study but used automated rather than manual chronometry. In Experiment 2
, we directly manipulated experimenters' expectancies by making half of the experimenters think their participants would slow down after exposure and the other half think that their participants would speed up after exposure.