Affective priming at a subthreshold level

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Dwyer, Margaret M.
Hines, David A.
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Thesis (M.A.)
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The communication of facial affect is a poorly understood process. In a subthreshold priming task, subjects were asked to rate photographs of faces displayed in a tachistoscope. Faces exhibiting strong positive and negative expressions were shown at 10% below the subject's recognition level and masked. Following this, a photograph of the same individual exhibiting no expression, or neutrality, was exposed at a rate that was well above the subject's recognition level. The subject was asked to rate the second photograph, or target, as being either positive or negative. It was hypothesized that the evaluations of target photographs would be biased by the prior subthreshold presentation of a strong positive or negative prime. The results did not support the hypothesis. Subjects rated the neutral faces as being negative regardless of the prime. It is possible that the experimental procedure produced a negative bias that counteracted the potential biasing effect of the primes.