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The Limits and Possibilities of Unconscious Processing

By Eva Van Den Bussche and Bert Reynvoet

Abstract

cognitive control The existence of unconscious perception is largely acknowledged. However, the limits and possibilities of unconscious processing remain unclear. We used two different approaches to clarify this. First, we conducted a large-scale meta-analysis of masked priming studies to examine the depth of unconscious processing. Second, we contrasted a manipulation on a conscious versus an unconscious level in order to shed light on whether unconscious processing extends to high cognitive levels, similar to conscious processing. The Depth of Unconscious Processing Dehaene and colleagues (1998) asked participants to classify numbers as smaller or larger than 5. Using a masked priming paradigm they observed that congruent trials, where prime and target evoke the same response (e.g. 1-3) were responded to faster than incongruent trials, where prime and target evoke different responses (e.g. 1-8). Moreover, the primes elicited neural activity in the motor cortex. The authors concluded that unconscious primes are semantically processed. Ever since then, the depth of subliminal priming has been topic of heavy debate and several authors have proposed competing non-semantic (where unconscious information is thought to be processed non-semantically) and semantic (where unconscious information is thought to be processed semantically) accounts. In order to shed light on whether subliminal primes can be processed up to a semantic level, we (Van den Bussche, Van den Noortgate & Reynvoet, in press) conducted a meta-analysis where published and unpublished masked priming studies were statistically combined. We found strong support for the claim that unconscious information can be processed semantically: masked priming was significant even when non-semantic influences were minimized or eliminated. However, our results also showed that non-semantic processing of subliminal information can additionally boost priming effects. Conscious versus Unconscious Processing One way to study the limits and possibilities of unconscious processing is to contrast the effects of a manipulation introduced on a conscious versus an unconscious level (Va

Topics: unconscious processing, masked priming
Year: 2014
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.412.3481
Provided by: CiteSeerX
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