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Affect Is Greater Than, Not Equal to, Condition: Condition and Person Effects in Affective Priming Paradigms


  • We would like to thank Aaron Weidman and Heather Grogan for their assistance with data collection. Preparation of this article was facilitated by grant R01 AG028419 from the National Institute of Aging to RJL and grant R305A100150 from the Institute of Education Sciences to AJE.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Adam A. Augustine, University of Rochester, Department of Clinical and Social Sciences in Psychology, 355 Meliora Hall, Rochester, NY 14627-0266. Email:


Affective primes may impact ensuing behavior through condition and person effects. However, previous research has not experimentally disentangled these two sources of influence in affective priming paradigms. In the current research, we simultaneously examine the influence of condition factors, in terms of prime valence, and person factors, in terms of affect reactivity and personality. In both studies, undergraduate participants (total N = 174) were primed with either positive or negative affective stimuli (words, Study 1; pictures, Study 2) prior to judging the likability of a neutral target (Arabic characters, Study 1; inkblots, Study 2). Although we did observe between-condition differences for positive and negative primes, person-level effects were more consistent predictors of target ratings. Affect reactivity (affect Time 2, controlling Time 1) to the primes predicted evaluative judgments, even in the absence of condition effects. In addition, the personality traits of Neuroticism (Study 1) and behavioral inhibition system sensitivity (Study 2) predicted evaluative judgments of neutral targets following negative affective primes. With effects for condition, affect reactivity, and personality, our results suggest that affective primes influence ensuing behaviors through both informational and affective means. Research using affective priming methodologies should take into account both condition and person-level effects.