Effects of subliminal affective stimuli on evaluative judgements: a video study on hospitals

Vidinli, Deniz
Private hospitals are business managements with medical customers (patients). One of the crucial factors that effects the acceptance of technology in hospital management systems is patient evaluations. The evaluative judgements of patients can be manipulated by subliminally induced affect. The major aim of this study is to investigate whether the evaluative judgements over the hospitals change after exposure to positive or negative affective visual stimuli, when the presentation duration is below conscious perception levels. A study with three phases is conducted for this purpose. Two private hospital videos are shot and edited to contain frames with happy and angry faces masked by the neutral counterparts, so that exposure is below the threshold for conscious perception. In the first phase, a baseline study without affective visuals is conducted. Hospital ratings indicated that participants had no preference for one hospital over the other. In the second phase, a different participant group watched the two hospital videos that contained affective stimuli. We found that the participants preferred hospitals with happy subliminal facial expressions significantly more than those with angry. In the third phase, a prime perceptibility test is administered. Sequences with affective pictures are shown and emotion recognition performance is tested. The participants performed at the chance level in identifying the facial expressions, proving that the affect perception of the participants does not occur consciously. As a result, the most important finding of the study is that sub‐consciously manipulated visuals within the hospital environment may lead to changes in customer satisfaction and decisions. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study conducted in a hospital environment which exhibited the manipulative effects of subliminal displays in evaluative judgements. Our findings draw attention to future use of displays in medical technology abiding by ethical constraints.