Variability in response criteria affects estimates of conscious identification and unconscious semantic priming☆

Consciousness and Cognition 16 (4):785-796 (2007)
Abstract
Three experiments examined the role of response criteria in a masked semantic priming paradigm using an exclusion task. Experiment 1 used on-line prime-report and exclusion instructions in which participants were told to avoid completing a word stem with a word related to a prime flashed for 0, 38 or 212 ms. Semantic priming was significant in the items analysis, but was moderated by peoples’ ability to report the prime in the participant analysis. Prime-report thresholds in Experiment 2 were made more liberal by instructing participants to guess on every trial. Prime-report increased from Experiment 1 as exclusion failures were eliminated. Experiment 3 clarified the relationship between awareness and prime identification using an on-line measure of confidence and different liberal prime report instructions. The current findings suggest that the ability to act upon and report information in a masked prime is determined by a variable response criterion, which can be manipulated as an independent variable
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