Automatic Activation of Adolescents’ Peer-Relational Schemas: Evidence From Priming With Facial Identity


  • This research was supported by the Academy of Finland Grants 119088 to L.N. and 202554/68884 to C.S. We thank the participating children, their parents, and teachers for making the research possible; Pasi Kainulainen for his help in preparing the materials and gathering the data; and Andrew Engell for his helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.

concerning this article should be sent to Lauri Nummenmaa, Department of Psychology, University of Tampere, FIN-33014 Finland. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study provides experimental evidence for automatic, relationship-specific social information processing in 13-year-old adolescents. Photographs of participants’ liked, disliked, and unknown peers were used as primes in an affective priming task with happy and angry facial expression probes and in a hypothetical vignette task. For the affective priming, reaction times were faster for congruent than for incongruent prime–probe pairs when the prime visibility was high and the prime–probe stimulus onset asynchrony was long. In the vignette task, participants attributed more hostility toward the protagonist, experienced more anger, and were more likely to retaliate when the disliked peer served as a prime. It is concluded that peer-relational schemas and related affect are activated automatically upon perception of a peer.