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Emotional valence of words and effect on the size of priming

J. Dorasamy


More recently, researchers have integrated emotional content in understanding how information is processed consciously and unconsciously. The influence of semantic priming was evidenced by responses to a target word being faster, if the word follows a semantically related word instead of an unrelated word. This study investigated whether the emotional valence of words influences the size of the priming effect. The study used a survey method with 180 English speaking employees in the public sector in South Africa, as participants. Participants were allocated into three groups (positive, negative, neutral). Each group was shown 90 prime target related word triplets, each containing one target word and two primes (one semantically related and one not semantically related word). It was hypothesized that students who were primed with semantically unrelated positive words will have a higher reaction time, than students primed with semantically positive words. The study showed that the reaction time in semantically related words were affected by emotional valences affects. It also indicated that there were differences in the size of priming effects of positive, negative and neutral valences. However, the study noted that since all participants were not subjected to all three emotional valences within the study, there was no conclusive evidence that the results of the reaction times would be the same. To this end, the study concluded that there would be the need for a comparative study of the reaction times amongst all emotional valences in various geographical and cultural context with a view to deepening the knowledge on the influence of the emotional valence of words on the size of the priming effect. 

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