Exploring the effect of subliminal single-word and multiple-word primes on working memory performance

Reeves, S. (2015) Exploring the effect of subliminal single-word and multiple-word primes on working memory performance. Ph.D. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.

[img]
Preview
PDF
14174.pdf

Download (3MB)

Abstract

This PhD thesis focused on subliminal priming, that is, the presentation of information
below conscious awareness (Vernon, 2009), which has been shown to influence both
cognitive and affective behaviours. Information can be presented subliminally using
both ‘Single-Word’ and ‘Multiple-Word’ written primes, although the two prime types
have not yet been compared. Currently there is no reported optimal procedure for the
presentation of subliminal stimuli, thus such a comparison could guide future research
concerning prime choice. Hence, this thesis empirically compared the effects produced
by Single-Word and Multiple-Word primes in a series of experiments. In Experiment 1
96 participants were subliminally stimulated with one of six alternative primes, three
Single-Word primes (cognitive: intelligent; affective: one; neutral-control: walking),
and three Multiple-Word primes (cognitive: I am intelligent; affective: mommy and I
are one; neutral-control: people are walking), and their performance measured on a
range of cognitive (e.g., working memory, intelligence, selective attention) and
affective (e.g., mood and state anxiety) tasks. Results of Experiment 1 showed no clear
change in participants’ intelligence, selective attention, mood, or state anxiety.
However, post hoc analysis found participants’ significantly improved their working
memory performance following exposure to all positive (e.g., cognitive and affective)
subliminal primes, regardless of prime type (i.e., Single-Word and Multiple-Word).
Experiment 2 followed this up by exploring the effect of subliminal priming on working
memory performance. Sixty participants were primed with one of the six subliminal
stimuli to assess whether the non-differential effect between prime types found in
Experiment 1 was due to the varied length of time between the end of subliminal
exposure and the onset of the task. Results found all participants’ performance
iv
improved regardless of prime type and prime content and thus was concluded to reflect
a practice effect. Experiment 3 considered that the absence of any subliminal priming
may have been due to participants’ potential lack of motivation to attain the goal of
improving working memory. Hence, 106 participants were primed with one of the six
subliminal stimuli and their motivation to achieve this goal was enhanced using falsepositive
feedback on performance and reading a false article extract highlighting the
benefit of a good working memory. Results found, despite increased motivation to
improve working memory, that subliminal priming did not have any effect on
performance. Experiment 4 considered whether the specific content of the subliminal
stimuli, the short prime-target stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA), or the type of task
could be accountable for the null results. Thus, in addition to enhancing participant
motivation, the content of the stimuli were refined to become more task-relevant, the
prime-target SOA was extended from 14ms to 514ms to allow more time for
unconscious processing. Eighty-three participants were primed with one of four
subliminal stimuli; two Single-Word primes (memory-specific: remember; neutralcontrol:
walking) and two Multiple-Word primes (memory-specific: I can remember
well; neutral-control: people are walking), and performance was measured using two
working memory tasks. Results found all participants’ performance improved on both
working memory tasks regardless of prime type and prime content and was concluded
to reflect a practice effect. Finally, a meta-analysis conducted on the data from the
Conceptual Span Task from all four experiments confirmed an improvement on
performance over time but no evidence of any subliminal priming effects. Overall, this
thesis found it was not possible to establish a difference between the two prime types,
although findings indicate that subliminal priming may not be able to improve
performance of the phonological loop component of working memory.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Divisions: Faculty of Social and Applied Sciences > School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Hudson
Date Deposited: 22 Dec 2015 14:34
Last Modified: 03 Oct 2016 08:25
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/14174

Actions (login required)

Update Item (CReaTE staff only) Update Item (CReaTE staff only)

Downloads

Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Share

Connect with us

Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00