Long-lasting effects of subliminal affective priming from facial expressions

Timothy D. Sweeny*, Marcia Grabowecky, Satoru Suzuki, Ken A. Paller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


Unconscious processing of stimuli with emotional content can bias affective judgments. Is this subliminal affective priming merely a transient phenomenon manifested in fleeting perceptual changes, or are long-lasting effects also induced? To address this question, we investigated memory for surprise faces 24 h after they had been shown with 30-ms fearful, happy, or neutral faces. Surprise faces subliminally primed by happy faces were initially rated as more positive, and were later remembered better, than those primed by fearful or neutral faces. Participants likely to have processed primes supraliminally did not respond differentially as a function of expression. These results converge with findings showing memory advantages with happy expressions, though here the expressions were displayed on the face of a different person, perceived subliminally, and not present at test. We conclude that behavioral biases induced by masked emotional expressions are not ephemeral, but rather can last at least 24 h.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)929-938
Number of pages10
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Affect
  • Awareness
  • Consciousness
  • Emotion
  • Facial expressions
  • Memory
  • Subliminal priming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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