Dissociative affective and associative priming effects in the lexical decision task: yes versus no responses to word targets reveal evaluative judgment tendencies

J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2000 Mar;26(2):456-69. doi: 10.1037//0278-7393.26.2.456.


The affective priming effect (AP; i.e., shorter evaluative or lexical decision latencies for affectively congruent prime-target pairs) has often been interpreted as evidence for spreading activation from the prime to affectively congruent targets. The present study emphasizes the view that in the lexical decision task, the prime-target configuration is implicitly evaluated as a question of the form "Is (prime) (target)?" (e.g., "Is death wise?") so that there is a tendency to affirm in cases of congruency and to negate in cases of incongruency. Therefore, after establishing the AP with the lexical decision task in Experiment 1, in Experiment 2 the assignment of yes responses to words and nonwords was varied. For the word = yes condition, the AP emerged, whereas the data pattern was reversed for the word = no condition. In Experiment 3, a comparable pattern of results was not found for symmetrical or backward associatively related prime-target pairs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect*
  • Attention
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Judgment*
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Paired-Associate Learning*
  • Psycholinguistics
  • Reaction Time
  • Semantics*