Media Technology MSc

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


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.




Marcello A. Gómez Maureira, Lisa E. Rombout, Livia Teernstra, Imara C. T. M. Speek, and Joost Broekens, The Influence of Subliminal Visual Primes on Player Affect in a Horror Computer Game. In: Proceedings of 6th Int Conf on Affective Computing and Intelligent Interaction (ACII), pp 705-711. IEEE, 2015.