Affect, Cognition, and Awareness: Affective Priming With Optimal and Suboptimal Stimulus Exposures

Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 90089-0281.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Impact Factor: 5.08). 06/1993; 64(5):723-39. DOI: 10.1037//0022-3514.64.5.723
Source: PubMed


The affective primacy hypothesis (R. B. Zajonc, 1980) asserts that positive and negative affective reactions can be evoked with minimal stimulus input and virtually no cognitive processing. The present work tested this hypothesis by comparing the effects of affective and cognitive priming under extremely brief (suboptimal) and longer (optimal) exposure durations. At suboptimal exposures only affective primes produced significant shifts in Ss' judgments of novel stimuli. These results suggest that when affect is elicited outside of conscious awareness, it is diffuse and nonspecific, and its origin and address are not accessible. Having minimal cognitive participation, such gross and nonspecific affective reactions can therefore be diffused or displaced onto unrelated stimuli. At optimal exposures this pattern of results was reversed such that only cognitive primes produced significant shifts in judgments. Together, these results support the affective primacy hypothesis.

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Available from: Sheila T Murphy, Oct 01, 2015
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    • "Observing anger has the potential to elicit either an anger state, or a 'complementary' fear state (Harrison et al., 2013), reflecting the dual response of fight or flight. In accordance with its negative status, (subliminal) anger priming decreases liking judgments of neutral stimuli (Murphy and Zajonc, 1993) and enhances avoidance behaviours (Marsh et al., 2005). Anger nevertheless possesses motivating properties normally expressed by positive emotions and which facilitate behaviour. "
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