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The flexibility of nonconsciously deployed cognitive processes: evidence from masked congruence priming.

Finkbeiner M, Friedman J - PLoS ONE (2011)

Bottom Line: For example, in tasks with a limited number of targets, subliminal priming effects are limited to primes that are physically similar to the targets.Findings such as these have led researchers to conclude that task-level properties can direct nonconscious processes to be deployed exclusively over central (semantic) or peripheral (physically specified) representations.If the source of the masked priming effect were exclusively central or peripheral, then both novel and repeated primes should yield similar patterns of priming.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. matthew.finkbeiner@mq.edu.au

ABSTRACT

Background: It is well accepted in the subliminal priming literature that task-level properties modulate nonconscious processes. For example, in tasks with a limited number of targets, subliminal priming effects are limited to primes that are physically similar to the targets. In contrast, when a large number of targets are used, subliminal priming effects are observed for primes that share a semantic (but not necessarily physical) relationship with the target. Findings such as these have led researchers to conclude that task-level properties can direct nonconscious processes to be deployed exclusively over central (semantic) or peripheral (physically specified) representations.

Principal findings: We find distinct patterns of masked priming for "novel" and "repeated" primes within a single task context. Novel primes never appear as targets and thus are not seen consciously in the experiment. Repeated primes do appear as targets, thereby lending themselves to the establishment of peripheral stimulus-response mappings. If the source of the masked priming effect were exclusively central or peripheral, then both novel and repeated primes should yield similar patterns of priming. In contrast, we find that both novel and repeated primes produce robust, yet distinct, patterns of priming.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that nonconsciously elicited cognitive processes can be flexibly deployed over both central and peripheral representations within a single task context. While we agree that task-level properties can influence nonconscious processes, our findings sharply constrain the extent of this influence. Specifically, our findings are inconsistent with extant accounts which hold that the influence of task-level properties is strong enough to restrict the deployment of nonconsciously elicited cognitive processes to a single type of representation (i.e. central or peripheral).

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Experimental Apparatus.Subjects initiated trials by pressing the red button. They then responded by reaching out and touching the ‘A’ for animal targets or the ‘P’ for person targets.
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pone-0017095-g002: Experimental Apparatus.Subjects initiated trials by pressing the red button. They then responded by reaching out and touching the ‘A’ for animal targets or the ‘P’ for person targets.

Mentions: In Experiment 1, subjects categorized pictures of people or animals (see Figure 1 for all stimuli) by reaching out and touching a “P” to indicate person or an “A” to indicate animal (see Figure 2 for a schematic of the experimental apparatus). Eight of the targets (4 animals and 4 people) were designated as critical targets and the two remaining targets were designated as filler targets. All targets appeared equally often, but the filler targets also appeared as subliminal (repeated) primes. We ensured that the novel and repeated prime stimuli appeared equally often across the experiment (see methods); we also counterbalanced the novel and repeated primes across subjects (N = 16). Thus, across the experiment, the only difference between the repeated and novel primes was that each repeated prime appeared as the target on 10% of the trials. The trial structure we used is very common in masked priming experiments and is depicted in Figure 3.


The flexibility of nonconsciously deployed cognitive processes: evidence from masked congruence priming.

Finkbeiner M, Friedman J - PLoS ONE (2011)

Experimental Apparatus.Subjects initiated trials by pressing the red button. They then responded by reaching out and touching the ‘A’ for animal targets or the ‘P’ for person targets.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

Show All Figures
getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3037407&req=5

pone-0017095-g002: Experimental Apparatus.Subjects initiated trials by pressing the red button. They then responded by reaching out and touching the ‘A’ for animal targets or the ‘P’ for person targets.
Mentions: In Experiment 1, subjects categorized pictures of people or animals (see Figure 1 for all stimuli) by reaching out and touching a “P” to indicate person or an “A” to indicate animal (see Figure 2 for a schematic of the experimental apparatus). Eight of the targets (4 animals and 4 people) were designated as critical targets and the two remaining targets were designated as filler targets. All targets appeared equally often, but the filler targets also appeared as subliminal (repeated) primes. We ensured that the novel and repeated prime stimuli appeared equally often across the experiment (see methods); we also counterbalanced the novel and repeated primes across subjects (N = 16). Thus, across the experiment, the only difference between the repeated and novel primes was that each repeated prime appeared as the target on 10% of the trials. The trial structure we used is very common in masked priming experiments and is depicted in Figure 3.

Bottom Line: For example, in tasks with a limited number of targets, subliminal priming effects are limited to primes that are physically similar to the targets.Findings such as these have led researchers to conclude that task-level properties can direct nonconscious processes to be deployed exclusively over central (semantic) or peripheral (physically specified) representations.If the source of the masked priming effect were exclusively central or peripheral, then both novel and repeated primes should yield similar patterns of priming.

View Article: PubMed Central - PubMed

Affiliation: Macquarie Centre for Cognitive Science, Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. matthew.finkbeiner@mq.edu.au

ABSTRACT

Background: It is well accepted in the subliminal priming literature that task-level properties modulate nonconscious processes. For example, in tasks with a limited number of targets, subliminal priming effects are limited to primes that are physically similar to the targets. In contrast, when a large number of targets are used, subliminal priming effects are observed for primes that share a semantic (but not necessarily physical) relationship with the target. Findings such as these have led researchers to conclude that task-level properties can direct nonconscious processes to be deployed exclusively over central (semantic) or peripheral (physically specified) representations.

Principal findings: We find distinct patterns of masked priming for "novel" and "repeated" primes within a single task context. Novel primes never appear as targets and thus are not seen consciously in the experiment. Repeated primes do appear as targets, thereby lending themselves to the establishment of peripheral stimulus-response mappings. If the source of the masked priming effect were exclusively central or peripheral, then both novel and repeated primes should yield similar patterns of priming. In contrast, we find that both novel and repeated primes produce robust, yet distinct, patterns of priming.

Conclusions: Our findings indicate that nonconsciously elicited cognitive processes can be flexibly deployed over both central and peripheral representations within a single task context. While we agree that task-level properties can influence nonconscious processes, our findings sharply constrain the extent of this influence. Specifically, our findings are inconsistent with extant accounts which hold that the influence of task-level properties is strong enough to restrict the deployment of nonconsciously elicited cognitive processes to a single type of representation (i.e. central or peripheral).

Show MeSH