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Contrasting the effects of suboptimally versus optimally presented affect primes on effort-related cardiac response

Abstract

Participants worked on an easy versus difficult arithmetic task with integrated happiness versus sadness primes, presented either suboptimally (briefly and masked) or optimally (long and visible). As predicted by the IAPE model (Gendolla in International Journal of Psychophysiology 86:123–135, 2012. doi:10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2012.05.003), the affect primes moderated the task difficulty effect on mental effort in the suboptimal-prime condition: cardiac pre-ejection period response was stronger in the happiness/difficult than in the sadness/difficult condition and tended to be stronger in the sadness-easy than in the happiness-easy condition. These effects were reversed in the optimal-prime-presentation condition, suggesting behavior correction due to controlled prime processing. Moreover, neither suboptimally nor optimally presented affect primes had prime-congruent effects on conscious mood assessed via self-report. The results demonstrate differential effects of implicitly versus explicitly processed affect cues on mental effort and suggest that they can do so without inducing emotional feelings.

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Notes

  1. We use the term suboptimal rather than subliminal, because the latter refers to stimulus presentations below individually determined thresholds of conscious perception. In our experiments, low contrast affective stimuli are briefly presented (27 ms) and backward masked resulting in suboptimal presentation in order to prevent controlled processing of the primes’ content.

  2. Due to technical measurement problems, there were missing data for some participants. Therefore, the sample sizes slightly varied across the analysis of the dependent variables: N = 134 for PEP, N = 133 for HR, and N = 130 for SBP and DBP.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by a research grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation awarded to the second author (SNF 100014-131760/1). We thank Audrey Bridy for her help as a hired experimenter.

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Correspondence to Guido H. E. Gendolla.

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Lasauskaite Schüpbach, R., Gendolla, G.H.E. & Silvestrini, N. Contrasting the effects of suboptimally versus optimally presented affect primes on effort-related cardiac response. Motiv Emot 38, 748–758 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-014-9438-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-014-9438-x

Keywords

  • Cardiovascular reactivity
  • Implicit affect
  • Priming
  • Mental effort
  • IAPE model