Evaluative priming from subliminal emotional words: Insights from event-related potentials and individual differences related to anxiety

Consciousness and Cognition 18 (2):383-400 (2009)
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Abstract

The present ERP study investigated effects of subliminal emotional words on preference judgments about subsequent visual target stimuli . Each target was preceded by a masked 17-ms emotional adjective. Four classes of prime words were distinguished according to the combinations of positive/negative valence and high/low arousal. Targets were liked significantly more after positive-arousing primes , relative to negative-arousing , positive-nonarousing , and negative-nonarousing primes . In the target ERP, amplitude of right-hemisphere positive slow wave was increased after positive-arousing compared to negative-arousing primes. Evaluative priming effects on judgments and ERPs were more pronounced in high state-anxious participants. The results suggest that there is indeed affective/semantic processing of unconscious words, evaluative priming operates relatively late during target processing, to be effective, prime words need to score high on the arousal dimension, and individual differences in state anxiety modulate the susceptibility to subliminal evaluative priming

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