Date Thesis Awarded


Access Type

Honors Thesis -- Access Restricted On-Campus Only

Degree Name

Bachelors of Science (BS)




Christopher Ball

Committee Members

Catherine Levesque

Kate Harrigan


Spreading activation theory describes semantic memory as a network of connected nodes, in which activation of a concept triggers the subsequent activation of semantically related concepts, and has often been tested using a semantic priming methodology. Spreading activation is assumed when a target word is preceded by a semantically congruent prime word (congruent priming) that results in a quicker response time to the target word. This finding has been utilized by embodied cognition theorists, who posit that all semantic memory is deeply engrained within the perceptual-motor system by which it was encoded. But are abstract words also represented in this way? To answer this question, the present study tested whether abstract approach-avoidance emotion words (e.g., love, fear) could prime concrete approach-avoidance action words (e.g., push, pull) if the emotion was congruent with the action (e.g., approach-approach or avoid-avoid). The results failed to show any priming effects on response times to judge whether the target word was a verb or non-verb regardless of the prime-target relationship. I offer suggestions on how to alter some aspects of the methodology to provide further tests of this question.

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