Semantic priming as a form of cognitive empowerment

This dissertation was the result of the course Virtual Reality/Informatic representation of knowledge (Università degli Studi di Milano), and was written by Elisa Baccolo, Beatrice Bellomo and Francesco Soave, 2014.

Priming is an automatic cognitive mechanism according to which the exposition to a certain kind of stimulus can modify the response to a subsequent stimulus (Schachter, Dobbins, & Schnyer, 2004). Even if literature has widely dealt with this phenomenon, still the experiments that moves further than just recording response times (i.e. MRI, EEG) are few. The main goal of our project is to evaluate if semantic priming, a kind of priming where prime and target are semantically-related, could be considered as a form of cognitive empowerment, as well as a useful method to improve the performances of subjects influenced by this stimulation. In particular, we expect that the subjects which received semantic priming show a lower activation of Beta (associated with high brain activity) and Gamma (associated with memory) waves, than the subjects who did not receive the priming. In order to do this, different people took part in a test, wearing a Neurosky Mindwave, a human-machine interface that allows to record EEG signals and the corresponding timing (fundamental for the priming itself). The results obtained in the experiment corroborate our thesis both from a behavioural and a cognitive point of view.

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