Automatic response activation in sequential affective priming: an ERP study

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Affective priming effects denote faster responses when two successively presented affective stimuli match in valence than when they mismatch. Two mechanisms have been proposed for their explanation: (i) Priming of affective information within a semantic network or distributed memory system (semantic priming). (ii) Automatic activation of the evaluative response through the affective prime (response priming). In this experiment, we sought more direct evidence for prime-induced response activations with measurement of the lateralized readiness potential (LRP). Onset of the stimulus-locked LRP was earlier in affectively congruent trials than in incongruent trials. In addition, priming modulated the LRP-amplitude of slow responses, indicating greater activation of the incorrect response hand in affectively incongruent trials. Onset of the response-locked LRP and peak latency of the P300 component were not modulated by priming but the amplitude of the N400 component was. In combination, these results suggest that both, semantic priming and response priming constitute affective priming effects in the evaluative categorization task.

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