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, 31 (1), 121-35

Unconscious Affective Reactions to Masked Happy Versus Angry Faces Influence Consumption Behavior and Judgments of Value

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Unconscious Affective Reactions to Masked Happy Versus Angry Faces Influence Consumption Behavior and Judgments of Value

Piotr Winkielman et al. Pers Soc Psychol Bull.

Abstract

The authors explored three properties of basic, unconsciously triggered affective reactions: They can influence consequential behavior, they work without eliciting conscious feelings, and they interact with motivation. The authors investigated these properties by testing the influence of subliminally presented happy versus angry faces on pouring and consumption of beverage (Study 1), perception of beverage value (Study 2), and reports of conscious feelings (both studies). Consistent with incentive motivation theory, the impact of affective primes on beverage value and consumption was strongest for thirsty participants. Subliminal smiles caused thirsty participants to pour and consume more beverage (Study 1) and increased their willingness to pay and their wanting more beverage (Study 2). Subliminal frowns had the opposite effect. No feeling changes were observed, even in thirsty participants. The results suggest that basic affective reactions can be unconscious and interact with incentive motivation to influence assessment of value and behavior toward valenced objects.

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