Effects of Subliminal Stimuli on Unconscious Processing of Anxiety: An Examination of Implicit Perception

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Abstract

Researchers in cognitive psychology generally accept that information, including emotions, may be processed outside of awareness. Some have postulated that anxiety may be induced by stimuli presented below the level of detection, a process called implicit perception; however, conflicting findings as to the validity of subliminal stimuli in influencing anxiety have been reported over the past decade. In the present study, 39 subjects were exposed to either positive, negative, or neutral subliminal stimuli, and half the subjects were informed as to the type of stimuli they received. All subjects were monitored for frontalis muscle tension, a physiological indicator of anxiety, on an electromyograph (EMG). No significant effects of the exposure upon EMG recordings were noted. Awareness of the type of stimuli presented had a small but insignificant effect. These results, although tentative, when replicated would question the validity of subliminal visual presentation in altering emotive states.

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