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Conscious Cogn. 2009 Dec;18(4):929-38. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2009.07.011. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

Long-lasting effects of subliminal affective priming from facial expressions.

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Department of Psychology and Interdepartmental Neuroscience Program, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, USA.


Unconscious processing of stimuli with emotional content can bias affective judgments. Is this subliminal affective priming merely a transient phenomenon manifested in fleeting perceptual changes, or are long-lasting effects also induced? To address this question, we investigated memory for surprise faces 24 h after they had been shown with 30-ms fearful, happy, or neutral faces. Surprise faces subliminally primed by happy faces were initially rated as more positive, and were later remembered better, than those primed by fearful or neutral faces. Participants likely to have processed primes supraliminally did not respond differentially as a function of expression. These results converge with findings showing memory advantages with happy expressions, though here the expressions were displayed on the face of a different person, perceived subliminally, and not present at test. We conclude that behavioral biases induced by masked emotional expressions are not ephemeral, but rather can last at least 24 h.

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