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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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Trial Structure in Experiment 2.Here we depict a congruent trial with the novel letter string prime. The fixation frame consisted of a central point and 4 peripheral points (0.2 degrees visual angle) at the corners of an imaginary square (15 degrees). The 4 peripheral points moved smoothly towards the fixation cross over a period of 1 second whereupon the fixation point alone was presented for 50 ms followed by the forward mask for 100 ms.
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pone-0017095-g009: Trial Structure in Experiment 2.Here we depict a congruent trial with the novel letter string prime. The fixation frame consisted of a central point and 4 peripheral points (0.2 degrees visual angle) at the corners of an imaginary square (15 degrees). The 4 peripheral points moved smoothly towards the fixation cross over a period of 1 second whereupon the fixation point alone was presented for 50 ms followed by the forward mask for 100 ms.

Mentions: The procedure was nearly identical to that of Experiment 1 with the following exceptions. First, we used a slightly different trial structure in that the stimuli were presented in black on a white background and we used a dynamic fixation frame at the onset of the trial (see Figure 9). Second, Experiment 2 included 1 practice blocks (120 trials) that were not analyzed, 2 experimental blocks (240 trials) and 1 prime detection blocks (120 trials). Subjects we given the opportunity to take a break after each run of 40 trials. Again, the trials in all blocks were identical except that in the detection blocks subjects were informed of the presence of the primes and, in this case, two possible primes appeared following target offset. Subjects indicated their response by reaching out and touching the item that they thought was the prime on the previous trial. To ensure that subjects attended to the target classification aspect of the task just as they had done in the experiment proper, we elicited prime-identification responses only on trials in which the target was correctly classified. Trials with incorrect target classifications were repeated later in the experiment to ensure an equal number of prime-identification trials across conditions.


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

Finkbeiner M, Friedman J - PLoS ONE (2011)

Trial Structure in Experiment 2.Here we depict a congruent trial with the novel letter string prime. The fixation frame consisted of a central point and 4 peripheral points (0.2 degrees visual angle) at the corners of an imaginary square (15 degrees). The 4 peripheral points moved smoothly towards the fixation cross over a period of 1 second whereupon the fixation point alone was presented for 50 ms followed by the forward mask for 100 ms.
© Copyright Policy
Related In: Results  -  Collection

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getmorefigures.php?uid=PMC3037407&req=5

pone-0017095-g009: Trial Structure in Experiment 2.Here we depict a congruent trial with the novel letter string prime. The fixation frame consisted of a central point and 4 peripheral points (0.2 degrees visual angle) at the corners of an imaginary square (15 degrees). The 4 peripheral points moved smoothly towards the fixation cross over a period of 1 second whereupon the fixation point alone was presented for 50 ms followed by the forward mask for 100 ms.
Mentions: The procedure was nearly identical to that of Experiment 1 with the following exceptions. First, we used a slightly different trial structure in that the stimuli were presented in black on a white background and we used a dynamic fixation frame at the onset of the trial (see Figure 9). Second, Experiment 2 included 1 practice blocks (120 trials) that were not analyzed, 2 experimental blocks (240 trials) and 1 prime detection blocks (120 trials). Subjects we given the opportunity to take a break after each run of 40 trials. Again, the trials in all blocks were identical except that in the detection blocks subjects were informed of the presence of the primes and, in this case, two possible primes appeared following target offset. Subjects indicated their response by reaching out and touching the item that they thought was the prime on the previous trial. To ensure that subjects attended to the target classification aspect of the task just as they had done in the experiment proper, we elicited prime-identification responses only on trials in which the target was correctly classified. Trials with incorrect target classifications were repeated later in the experiment to ensure an equal number of prime-identification trials across conditions.

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