Invisible is Better: Decrease of Subliminal Priming With Increasing Visibility

PSYCHE: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Research On Consciousness 15 (2) (2009)
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Comparisons of indirect measures with direct measures can help elucidate the relationship between nonconscious and conscious perception. We report three experiments on masked word priming in which we observed a negative correlation between prime discriminability and priming , i.e. where priming decreased with increasing prime visibility. While such observations are rare , they may indicate a conflict between conscious and nonconscious processing when primes are shown close to the subjective visibility threshold for the priming-relevant information. For instance, such a conflict could occur between nonconscious processing of a prime’s meaning and conscious perception of prime letters. Theoretical accounts that discuss similar conflicts assume that the conflict is resolved either by automatically prioritising conscious processes or by discounting the estimated confusion caused by a prime-target pair . In both cases, priming is predicted to decrease when prime visibility increases from below threshold to perithreshold levels. Therefore, we suggest that negative priming-d’ relationships are most likely observed when the d’ measure assesses prime visibility at a level of representation that is below the level of representation at which priming arises, in terms of a putative hierarchy of word processing



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