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Zhicheng Lin, Scott O. Murray; Priming of awareness or how not to measure visual awareness. Journal of Vision 2014;14(1):27. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/14.1.27.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
A foundational issue in the study of unconscious processing concerns whether the stimuli of interest are truly out of awareness. Objective methods employing forced choice are typically championed as the gold standard and widely thought to be conservative. Here, however, as a case study, we demonstrate an underestimation of awareness in a collection of studies on unconscious cognitive control. Specifically, we found that (a) in addition to genuine unawareness, chance performance could be due to a failure to perform the task; (b) visual awareness for low-visibility trials was elevated when mixed with high-visibility trials compared with when presented alone as demonstrated in both objective awareness (forced-choice performance) and subjective awareness (rating based on a perceptual awareness scale); and (c) the elevation effect was partly due to a shape-specific template enhancement at both the block and intertrial levels. We term the awareness elevation effect priming of awareness: Visual priming fundamentally alters awareness, boosting otherwise invisible objects into consciousness. These results implicate two key requirements for measuring awareness: (a) verify that participants are truly performing the awareness task and (b) use all types of trials in the awareness test as in the main experiment. Priming of awareness is consistent with an expanded model of awareness and top-down attention in which awareness is determined by (a) retinal stimulus strength and (b) both goal-dependent and goal-independent extra-retinal modulation.
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