August 2014
Volume 14, Issue 10
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2014
Affective Priming by Biological Motion
Author Affiliations
  • Edward Nguyen
    University of California, San Diego
  • Wayne Khoe
    University of California, San Diego
  • Ayse P. Saygin
    University of California, San Diego
Journal of Vision August 2014, Vol.14, 1019. doi:
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      Edward Nguyen, Wayne Khoe, Ayse P. Saygin; Affective Priming by Biological Motion. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):1019. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Emotion is a pervasive and important aspect of human perception and consciousness. Relatively little is known about the mechanisms underlying the perception of emotional body movements, despite its inherent presence and influence in our daily lives. Here, we employed an affective priming paradigm, where subjects were primed with point-light biological motion stimuli (arm movements) conveying anger, happiness or neutral affect (Pollick et al., 2001). They subsequently were asked to make judgments on target words that were either positive or negative in valence. Responses in affectively congruent trials (i.e., happy prime/positive target or angry prime/negative target) were significantly faster than those in incongruent and neutral trials, indicative of a positive priming effect. In a second experiment, point-light displays were spatially scrambled to disrupt the global form of the primes while retaining the local motion cues. No significant difference was found between any of the prime-target conditions, indicating local motion information is insufficient to lead to the affective priming effect. In a third experiment, we prevented the primes from reaching awareness by using a stereoscope. The affective priming effect was abolished when the primes were masked, indicating awareness is necessary for the affective priming effect. On the other hand, we found a main effect of prime type; responses for the happy primes were significantly faster than those for angry or neutral primes. Taken together, these data show that emotion cues conveyed by biological motion modulate the processing of incoming affective stimuli, adding to the literature on both biological motion and affective priming research. Biological motion can influence affective processing even when rendered unconscious, though the higher order priming effects appear to rely on the stimuli reaching awareness. Future work is needed to delineate similarities and differences between conscious and unconscious processing of affective biological motion.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014


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