When all is revealed: A dissociation between evaluative learning and contingency awareness

Consciousness and Cognition 10 (4):524-549 (2001)
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Abstract

Three experiments are reported that address the issue of awareness in evaluative learning in two different sensory modalities: visual and haptic. Attempts were made to manipulate the degree of awareness through a reduction technique (by use of a distractor task in Experiments 1 and 2 and by subliminally presenting affective stimuli in Experiment 3) and an induction technique (by unveiling the evaluative learning effect and requiring participants to try to discount the influence of the affective stimuli). The results indicate overall that evaluative learning was successful in the awareness-reduction groups but not in the awareness-induction groups. Moreover, an effect in the opposite direction to that normally observed in evaluative learning emerged in participants aware of the stimulus contingencies. In addition, individual differences in psychological reactance were found to be implicated in the strength and direction of the effect. It is argued that these results pose serious problems for the contention that awareness is necessary for evaluative learning.

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