The interaction of arousal and valence in affective priming: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence

Qin Zhang, Lingyue Kong, Yang Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The affective priming paradigm has been studied extensively and applied in many fields during the past two decades. Most research thus far has focused on the valence dimension. Whether emotional arousal influences affective priming remains poorly understood. The present study demonstrates how arousal impacts evaluation of affective words using reaction time and event-related potential (ERP) measures. Eighteen younger subjects evaluated pleasantness of target words after seeing affective pictures as primes. The participants' responses were faster and/or more accurate for valence-congruent trials than for incongruent trials, particularly with high-arousal stimuli. An ERP affective priming effect (N400) also occurred mainly in high-arousing stimulus pairs. In addition, whereas valence congruency influenced both the N400 and the LPP, arousal congruency influenced only the LPP, suggesting that arousal congruency mainly modulates post-semantic processes, but valence congruency effects begin with semantic processes. Overall, our current findings indicate that the arousal level of visual images impacts both behavioral and ERP effects of affective priming.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)60-72
Number of pages13
JournalBrain Research
StatePublished - Sep 20 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank C. Ma, X. Zhang, and W. Zhao for their assistance in data collection, and L. Broster, K. Snyder, and L. Holderfield for editing. This research was supported by the Natural Science Foundation of China (grant numbers 31070902 ) to Qin Zhang and US National Institute of Health grant P50 DA 05312 to the Center for Drug Abuse Research Translation at the University of Kentucky.


  • Affective priming
  • Arousal
  • Evaluation decision task
  • Valence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (all)
  • Molecular Biology
  • Clinical Neurology
  • Developmental Biology


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