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Many studies directed at demonstrating perception without awareness have relied on the dissociation paradigm. Although the logic underlying this paradigm is relatively straightforward, definitive results have been elusive in the absence of any general consensus as to what constitutes an adequate measure of awareness. We propose an alternative approach that involves comparisons of the relative sensitivity of comparable direct and indirect indexes of perception. The only assumption required by the proposed approach is that the sensitivity of direct discriminations to relevant conscious information is greater than or equal to the sensitivity of comparable indirect discriminations. The proposed approach is illustrated through an evaluation of Avant and Thieman’s (1985) recent claim that an indirect measure of perception based on judgments of apparent visual duration provides a more sensitive indicator of perception than does a direct measure based on forced-choice recognition. Contrary to this claim, when direct and indirect indexes are measured under comparable conditions, an indirect measure based on judgments of perceived duration provides a less sensitive index of perceptual processing than do comparable direct measures. The proposed approach provides a general conceptual/methodological framework for using the dissociation paradigm in studies directed at establishing unconscious processes.
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