September 2021
Volume 21, Issue 9
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2021
Unpredictive linguistic verbal cues accelerate congruent visual targets into awareness
Author Affiliations
  • Chris Paffen
    Utrecht University
  • Andre Sahakian
  • Marijn Struiksma
  • Stefan Van der Stigchel
Journal of Vision September 2021, Vol.21, 1952. doi:
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      Chris Paffen, Andre Sahakian, Marijn Struiksma, Stefan Van der Stigchel; Unpredictive linguistic verbal cues accelerate congruent visual targets into awareness. Journal of Vision 2021;21(9):1952. doi:

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Does linguistic information speed up access to consciousness of matching visual information? This question was addressed by Lupyan & Ward (2013), and more recently by Forder, Taylor, Mankin, Scott, and Franklin (2016), and Ostarek and Huettig (2017). In these previous studies, however, target-congruency was either confounded with target predictability, or a paradigm was used that did not directly assess time-to-awareness. Here, we investigate whether congruent linguistic information speeds up access to awareness of matching visual information, using a breaking continuous flash suppression paradigm in which cue-target congruency was not confounded with predictability. In a speeded reaction time task, observers heard spoken color labels (e.g. red) followed by colored targets that were either congruent (red), incongruent (green) or neutral (a neutral non-color word) with respect to the labels. Importantly, and in contrast to previous studies investigating a similar question, the cues were never predictive of the targets. Our results show that RTs were selectively shortened for congruent verbal-visual pairings (and not lengthened for incongruent parings), and that this shortening occurred over a wide range of cue-target intervals. We suggest that linguistic verbal information pre-activates sensory representations, so that, for example, hearing the word ‘tomato’ pre-activates (visual) information internally, making it easier to spot tomatoes among other fruit in a fruit stall. Forder, L., Taylor, O., Mankin, H., Scott, R. B., & Franklin, A. (2016). Colour Terms Affect Detection of Colour and Colour-Associated Objects Suppressed from Visual Awareness. PLoS ONE, 11(3), e0152212–19. Lupyan, G., & Ward, E. J. (2013). Language can boost otherwise unseen objects into visual awareness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 110(35), 14196–14201. Ostarek, M., & Huettig, F. (2017). Spoken words can make the invisible visible—Testing the involvement of low-level visual representations in spoken word processing. Journal of Experimental Psychology Human Perception and Performance, 43(3), 499–508.


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