On the source and scope of priming effects of masked stimuli on endogenous shifts of spatial attention

Consciousness and Cognition 22 (2):528-544 (2013)
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Unconscious stimuli can influence participants’ motor behavior as well as more complex mental processes. Previous cue-priming experiments demonstrated that masked cues can modulate endogenous shifts of spatial attention as measured by choice reaction time tasks. Here, we applied a signal detection task with masked luminance targets to determine the source and the scope of effects of masked stimuli. Target-detection performance was modulated by prime-cue congruency, indicating that prime-cue congruency modulates signal enhancement at early levels of target processing. These effects, however, were only found when the prime was perceptually similar to the cue indicting that primes influence early target processing in an indirect way by facilitating cue processing. Together with previous research we conclude that masked stimuli can modulate perceptual and post-central levels of processing. Findings mark a new limit of the effects of unconscious stimuli which seem to have a smaller scope than conscious stimuli



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