Accessing the meaning of invisible words

Consciousness and Cognition 20 (2):223-233 (2011)
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Abstract

Previous research has shown implicit semantic processing of faces or pictures, but whether symbolic carriers such as words can be processed this way remains controversial. Here we examine this issue by adopting the continuous flash suppression paradigm to ensure that the processing undergone is indeed unconscious without the involvement of partial awareness. Negative or neutral words projected into one eye were made invisible due to strong suppression induced by dynamic-noise patterns shown in the other eye through binocular rivalry. Inverted and scrambled words were used as controls to provide baselines at orthographic and feature levels, respectively. Compared to neutral words, emotion-described and emotion-induced negative words required longer time to release from suppression, but only for upright words. These results suggest that words can be processed unconsciously up to semantic level since under interocular suppression completely invisible words can lead to different processing speed due to the emotion information they carry

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