Published On: 25/06/2005|Categories: 2003–2007, Vol.26 (2), Vol.26 (2005)|

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Three experiments explored the effect of affectively congruent or incongruent primes on evaluation responses to positive or negative valenced targets (the “affective priming” effect). Experiment 1 replicated the basic affective priming effect with Spanish nouns: reaction time for evaluative responses (pleasant/unpleasant) were slower on incongruent trials, where the prime and the target were of opposed valence, than on congruent trials, where prime and target had the same valence. In Experiment 2, this congruency effect was obtained with primes that were pseudo-words that had been previously associated with symbolic positive or negative outcomes (medicinal plants or poisons). However, the effect was only obtained on trials with positive targets. In Experiment 3, the primes were positive, negative and neutral pseudo-words that had acquired valence through association with positive, negative or neutral outcomes, respectively. In this case, the congruency effect was obtained with both positive and negative targets. Evaluative responses to the targets were significantly slower on incongruent than on congruent trials. However, reaction times on trials with neutral primes did not differ significantly from reaction times on trials with either positive or negative primes. These results suggest that associative learning procedures where a neutral cue is paired with a symbolic valenced outcome confer this cue an affective valence or condition an evaluative response to it. This associatively acquired valence then affects evaluative processing of a target when the learned signal is used as a prime. However, our results do not allow a conclusion as to wether this effect is due to the facilitatory effects of congruence, the inhibitory effects of incongruency or both.

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