Date of Award




Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of Psychology


Cognitive Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (vii, 56 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Jeanette Altarriba

Committee Members

Julio R Torres


automaticity, emotion, emotion-laden, lexical decision task, valence, Lexicology, Language and emotions, Emotive (Linguistics), Dependency grammar

Subject Categories

Cognitive Psychology | Experimental Analysis of Behavior | Psychology


A lexical decision task (LDT) was used to determine if there are differences between emotion word types when they are processed, both explicitly (Experiment 1) and implicitly (Experiment 2). For example, prime-target word pairs contained either emotion (e.g., love, fear, anxious) or emotion-laden (e.g., puppy, chocolate, hospital) words. Previous experiments within this area of research have investigated how emotionality, concreteness, and abstractness affect word processing (Altarriba & Bauer, 2004; Altarriba, Bauer, & Benvenuto, 1999). As Bleasdale (1987) first argued, abstract words were, in many ways, different from concrete words. Research has continued along this vein, confirming that emotion words are also different from both abstract and concrete words. To assess for differences between emotion and emotion-laden word processing, two experiments were conducted, the first assessing conscious processing of these words (using an unmasked LDT), and the second assessing unconscious--or implicit--processing of these words (using a masked LDT). The experimental methodology for these experiments was expanded to manipulate additional variables (Altarriba & Basnight-Brown, 2007), including valence (positive v. negative pairs) and stimulus onset asynchrony (a short v. long period between the presentation of the prime and target in Experiment 1). The prediction that semantic priming (i.e., shorter reaction times, or RTs, to related word pairs than unrelated word pairs) would differ between emotion word pairs and emotion-laden word pairs was confirmed in both experiments, with faster RTs to emotion targets and greater priming effects for emotion word pairs than emotion-laden word pairs. Moreover, because findings from Experiment 1 were replicated in Experiment 2 (using a more implicit paradigm), we believe that this is an indicator of greater automatic semantic priming for emotion words than emotion-laden words. Significant findings from these experiments, in addition to implications for stimuli selection in word priming experiments, are discussed.