Semantic processing precedes affect retrieval: The neurological case for cognitive primacy in visual processing

Justin Storbeck, Michael D. Robinson, Mark E. McCourt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

53 Scopus citations


According to the affective primacy hypothesis, visual stimuli can be evaluated prior to and independent of object identification and semantic analysis (Zajonc, 1980, 2000). Our review concludes that the affective primacy hypothesis is, from the available evidence, not likely correct. Although people can read to objects that they cannot consciously identify, such affective reactions are dependent upon prior semantic analysis within the visual cortex. The authors propose that the features of objects must first be integrated, and then the objects themselves must be categorized and identified, all prior to affective analysis. Additionally, the authors offer a preliminary neurological analysis of the mere exposure and affective priming effects that is consistent, with the claim, that semantic analysis is needed to elicit these effects. In sum, the authors conclude that the brain must know what something is in order to know whether it is good or bad.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-55
Number of pages15
JournalReview of General Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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