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The authors investigated affective semantic priming using a lexical decision task with 4 affective categories of related word pairs: neutral, happy, fearful, and sad. Results demonstrated a striking and reliable effect of affective category on semantic priming. Neutral and happy prime-targets yielded significant semantic priming. Fearful pairs showed no or modest priming facilitation, and sad primes slowed reactions to sad targets. A further experiment established that affective primes do not have generalized facilitatory-inhibitory effects. The results are interpreted as showing that the associative mechanisms that support semantic priming for neutral words are also shared by happy valence words but not for negative valence words. This may reflect increased vigilance necessary in adverse contexts or suggest that the associative mechanisms that bind negative valence words are distinct.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





354 - 363


Adult, Attention, Decision Making, Emotions, Female, Humans, Male, Semantics