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"Emotion vs. Logic: Understanding their Influence on Social Interactions"

Social interactions - we have many of them each and every day. But how often do we consider what influences them and how our emotional state and logic impact how they play out?

Did you know that how you feel and your representations of previous experiences shape the interactions you have with other people every single day? Affective and Evaluation Priming are two cognitive processes that play a role in shaping these experiences.

Affective priming refers to the influence of one's emotional state on perception and evaluation of stimuli. How we feel can "prime" us to perceive or evaluate things in a certain way. For example, being in a positive mood can cause us to perceive neutral stimuli more positively - and vice versa.

Evaluative priming is more specific to the evaluation of the stimuli, and how the evaluation of the previous stimuli affects the appraisal of a subsequent stimulus. An example would be showing someone a picture of a puppy, which is a positive prime, and would lead to a more positive assessment by the person.

Both have significant impacts on social interactions by shaping how we perceive and respond to others.

Overlap and Differences

Affective and evaluative priming are both cognitive processes. They are activations of mental representations. However, they differ in focus. As previously mentioned, affective is more general and is based on emotional states and evaluative is more specific to the evaluation of the stimuli and on previous assessments, affecting how we judge or respond to them.

They also differ in mechanisms. Affective priming is thought to involve activation in semantic networks, where activation of one concept leads to the activation of related concepts, including emotional states. Evaluative priming is explained by associative processes, by which the evaluation of one stimulus activates an evaluation that is then applied to subsequent stimuli (Think of judging a book by its cover).

The effects vary in that affective priming has more broader effects on perception and assessment, potentially extending judgments beyond specific stimuli. Whereas evaluative priming is more specific to the primed stimulus.

But how much of an effect can they have on social interactions?

Effects on Social Interactions

These processes can have effects on our perceptions of others. For example, a positive prime can influence us to perceive others more positively. They can also lead to social contagion, where our emotional state influences the emotions of others, and can affect the overall emotional tone.

Our behavioural responses can also be impacted. If we receive an aggressive prime, we are more likely to act aggressively. Our stereotypes or preconceived notions can influence both judgments and behaviour, known as implicit bias. Along those lines, these processes can also influence our judgments of others, affecting how we perceive their intentions, trustworthiness, and likability, forming social judgments.

And they impact group dynamics. How individuals within a group perceive and interact with one another is based off of our affective and evaluative priming. Understanding these processes can help us navigate social interactions more effectively and empathetically.

Examples in Everyday Life

There are practical examples everywhere in the world, from day-to-day. Marketing and advertisements use affective priming to evoke certain emotions in consumers. By displaying positive images and messages, such as a happy family eating together, they will be more likely to buy the product being advertised. This also works with colour priming. McDonald's uses the colour red to invoke hunger and yellow because it encourages feelings of happiness.

In a customer service setting, affective priming creates a positive customer experience when positive language and gestures are used to make customers feel more satisfied. If a salesperson is warm and inviting, customers are more likely to be happy about their purchase.

Educators who offer positive feedback before a test prime students to perform better on exams.

Positive imagery and music in a doctor's office can help patients feel more relaxed and less anxious

Leaders who display enthusiasm and positivity prime their team members to feel more motivated and engaged.

Calming images or words can help to defuse a tense situation and lead to better conflict resolution. So the next time you have an argument with your significant other, just show them a picture of a puppy first! I'm kidding. But remaining calm and keeping your words and tone of voice positive can influence how the conflict goes.

Affective priming techniques have been shown to improve mood and behaviour. Yes, those positive affirmations are beneficial and not just some woo woo thing. Visualizing positive outcomes before taking on a challenging task can help you to feel more confident and to perform better.

There are a wide range of practical applications across various fields. They can be used to enhance communication, decision-making, and overall well-being. The next time you are engaging in a social interaction with a friend, family member, salesperson, teacher, or grumpy driver think about how your emotional state or previous experiences could be influencing the current engagement. It could just blow your mind!

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