Facial expressions do not show repetition priming using the standard paradigm in which primes and targets are presented in separate blocks of the experiment (Ellis et al., 1992; QJEP, 42A(3)). Using the self-priming paradigm (Calder et al., 1996; QJEP, 49A(4)), I investigated whether a short-term benefit of same expression priming could be found when primes and targets are separated by a short interval with no intervening items. In all experiments, primes and targets were computer-manipulated images; primes were 50% caricatures of expressions and targets were morphed images containing 50% neutral and 50% expression. An initial experiment compared two prime-target conditions prepared from happy and sad expressions. Examples of the two condition types were as follows: same condition (e.g., prime=50% happy caricature, target=50% neutral-happy morph) and unrelated condition (e.g., prime=50% sad caricature, target=50% neutral-happy morph). Contrary to initial expectations, the results showed that same expression primes produced slower RTs to categorise the target expression relative to unrelated primes.
Additional experiments addressed whether the results of the first experiment had a perceptual basis by examining whether the position of prime had an effect on performance. The format of these experiments was similar to the first, except that the central single prime was replaced with two identical ‘flanker’ primes positioned on either side of the central target position. Contrary to the results of Experiment 1, the same flanker primes produced facilitation relative to unrelated primes. The results will be discussed in terms of different components of facial expression priming – perceptual versus conceptual.