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Marjan Persuh, Tony Ro; Activation of complex stimulus-response mappings without visual awareness. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):1231. doi: 10.1167/11.11.1231.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Conscious representations are generally thought to entail deeper or more complex forms of information processing. Although several priming studies support this claim, other studies show unconscious semantic processing or even unconscious complex decision making. In the current study we provide evidence that such discrepancies might be due to differences in information processing times as opposed to consciousness. In three experiments, we sought to disentangle the role of awareness from prime processing using complex stimulus response (SR) mappings, where physically different stimuli are mapped to the same response. In each experiment, primes were rendered invisible using metacontrast masks, which also served as the targets. When primes were physically different than targets, they were either response congruent or response incongruent. In the first experiment, we obtained faster reaction times for physically different stimuli when they were mapped to the same response. Forced-choice prime discrimination confirmed that participants were unaware of the primes. These results provide evidence for unconscious priming with complex SR mappings. Our results are different from those of a previous study that used a shorter prime to mask interval (Ro, T., Singhal, N. S., Breitmeyer, B. G., & Garcia, J. O. (2009). Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 71(1), 95–103.), suggesting that complex stimulus response mapping arises with longer processing times. In the second experiment, using multiple prime-mask intervals and a subjective measure of awareness, we measured stronger priming effects for longer prime-mask intervals under conditions of unawareness. In the third experiment we show that unconscious priming occurs even at very brief processing durations if perceptual similarity between the stimuli is increased. These results provide strong evidence for unconscious priming with complex SR mapping and demonstrate the importance of allowing for sufficient prime processing under unaware conditions.
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