This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Priming Emotion Using Metaphors Representative of Family Functioning




Lawrence, Emily Jane

Type of Degree





The aim of this experimental study was to explore the possibility of priming emotions by exposure to relational frame networks consistent with hegemonic ideologies (power, control, domination) represented by graphical narratives. It was hypothesized that cultural ideologies supportive of aggression are cognitively embedded or programmed such that when exposed metaphorically would prime negative (anxious, angry, sad) emotional responses. Conversely, ideologies supportive of egalitarian and cooperative ideologies would prime positive emotions (happy, neutral). It was also hypothesized that emotional responding would change when the ideologies were expressed within the very personal social construct of family dynamics. To test these hypotheses, the investigator designed a computer, web-based methodology in which groups of participants watched one of two children’s games, King of the Mountain or Clubhouse Building, depicted by colored circles interacting on the computer screen consistent with either the aggressive (King of the Mountain) ideology or the cooperative (Clubhouse Building) ideology. In two other groups the relational function was transformed by suggesting to the participants that the games represented their families, and they were asked to what degree they identified with the metaphors as their families. A control group watched colored circles move without purpose on the screen. Following exposure, a Lexical Decision Task and the Uwist Mood Adjective Checklist measured emotion and mood priming in all five groups. Participants included 333 Auburn University students who were taking introductory psychology courses. The results showed that emotion and mood were primed given group assignment. The King of the Mountain peer play activity group that illustrated aggressive or violent struggle for purposes of domination was primed for negative emotion. Unexpectedly, however, the Clubhouse Building peer play activity group that depicted cooperative interaction for the successful completion of an external goal, also primed for negative emotion. Consistent with the hypothesis that hegemonic cultural ideologies are embedded, it was suggested that cultural ideologies or programming may act as templates that are applied contextually and in various degrees. Another finding indicated that participants who viewed the play activities and indicated the metaphor was consistent with their family functioning, showed less priming for negative affect. This was contrary to the hypothesis that personalizing the metaphors would increase negative emotion. Implications for the findings, limitations of the study, and directions for future research are discussed. Keywords: Violence, aggression, emotion, culture, metaphor, Relational Frame Theory, family, play