Recently I watch a TV program about some psychological research where they mentioned something they called “priming”.
The gist of the idea was that getting a person to think about something in advance of making a decision would affect that decision. Usually the person is unaware that the priming had anything to do with the experiment. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priming_%28psychology%29
One experiment they mentioned got me thinking about how this might be important for filmmakers to know. In the experiment, they primed some people to think about their own mortality. They found that people primed to think about death were less willing to be charitable to others than people who were not primed.
At first, this sounded a lot like Subliminal Seduction http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilson_Bryan_Key, which is highly questionable. But when I looked at it closer, it looked legit.
In the script I am writing I have someone killed on page 2. I want the audience to care about people later in the story, which would be harder if they have shifted into a more self-centered frame of mind.
I would certainly want to check out this claim further before I start revising my script. Maybe it is just that I am not an experienced fiction writer (yet). Maybe more experienced writers are already aware of this, even if they don’t think about it consciously.