Most people agree that emotions can be caused by a specific event and that the person experiencing it is aware of the cause, such as a childs excitement at the sound of an ice cream truck. But recent research suggests emotions also can be unconsciously evoked and manipulated.
Psychologists Kirsten Ruys and Diedrick Stapel of the Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research at Tillburg University in The Netherlands have uncovered the first empirical evidence to suggest humans do not need to be aware of the event that caused their mood or feelings in order to be affected by it. The scientists hypothesized that, since humans have evolved to respond quickly and unconsciously to stimuli, they should be able to react to an emotional event without full awareness: You are likely to live longer if you immediately stop moving at the sight of a growling grizzly bear and do not need full awareness for such a response to be instigated, explained Ruys and Stapel.
The researchers measured peoples thoughts, feelings and behavior to determine whether specific emotions were induced without awareness of their causea study based on the theory implying that, due to natural selection, humans should be able to detect specific emotion-evoking information automatically. Participants were separated into three groups and were told that very short flashes would appear on a computer screen. They were then instructed to press the R key if it appeared on the right side of the screen or the L key if it appeared on the left.
In actuality, the flashes were subliminal images selected to elicit fear, disgust or no emotion at all. The images flashed at varying speeds making it impossible for the participants to be fully conscious of their presence. In other words, the participants were unaware that they were viewing images of growling dogs and dirty toilets or even neutral images, such as horses or chairs.
The participants then underwent three tests to
|Contact: Katie Kline|
Association for Psychological Science