Non-conscious word processing in a mirror-masking paradigm causing attentional distraction: An ERP-study

Consciousness and Cognition 21 (1):353-365 (2012)
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In this event-related potential study a masking technique that prevents conscious perception of words and non-words through attentional distraction was used to reveal the temporal dynamics of word processing under non-conscious and conscious conditions. In the non-conscious condition, ERP responses differed between masked words and non-words from 112 to 160 ms after stimulus-onset over posterior brain areas. The early onset of the word–non-word differences was compatible with previous studies that reported non-conscious access to orthographic information within this time period. Moreover, source localisations provided evidence for automatic activation of prelexical phonological information, whereas no evidence for non-conscious semantic processing was found. When subjects were informed about the masking technique, lexical differences occurred at later time intervals, suggesting conscious access to additional word related information. These results indicate that early visual word processing does not depend entirely on attentional resources, but that non-conscious processing probably is restricted to rather lower-level linguistic information



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