The Influence of Subliminal Visual Primes on Player Affect in a Horror Computer Game

Marcello A. Gomez Maureira, Lisa E. Rombout, Livia Teernstra, Imara Speek, Joost Broekens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Subliminal priming is an extensively researched technique in cognitive psychology. Research often focuses on highly controlled lab-environments, with only a few studies attempting to translate it to applications outside the laboratory. In this study, visual affect priming was deployed in the complex environment of a horror computer game, while maintaining strict standards in regard to subliminal thresholds. Fear-inducing images of one prime-type were shown repeatedly to players (N=60) during 5-minute playing sessions, using sandwich masking and a prime-duration of 33.3 ms. Three types of images were compared to an empty control-image: text, faces and spiders. Players were monitored with heart-rate and galvanic skin response (GSR) sensors to determine effects on a physiological level and were interviewed directly after playing. Results show no significant differences in affective self-report. GSR measures show an increase of relaxation between the start and finish of the game for players who were primed with face images, which we attribute to a result of our relative small player sample. We conclude that in a perceptually complex environment such as a video-game, subliminal visual priming does not noticeably influence player affect. However, measures directly around prime-windows coinciding with in-game sounds showed a significantly effect on GSR. This suggests that GSR is a suitable tool to gauge the affective impact of game elements.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2015 International Conference on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction (ACII)
Place of Publication Xi'an, China
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4799-9952-1
ISBN (Print)978-1-4799-9954-5
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sep 2015
EventACII 2015 - Xi'an, China
Duration: 21 Sep 201524 Sep 2015


ConferenceACII 2015


  • Affective gaming
  • priming
  • fear
  • player affect


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