Subliminal perception (SP) is today considered a well-supported theory stating that perception can occur without conscious awareness and have a significant impact on later behaviour and thought. In this article, we first present and discuss different approaches to the study of SP. In doing this, we claim that most approaches are based on a dichotomic measure of awareness. Drawing upon recent advances and discussions in the study of introspection and phenomenological psychology, we argue for both the possibility and necessity (...) of using an elaborated measure of subjective states. In the second part of the article, we present findings where these considerations are implemented in an empirical study. The results and implications are discussed in detail, both with reference to SP, and in relation to the more general problem of using elaborate introspective reports as data in relation to studies of cognition. (shrink)
Our approach is based on a tri-partite method of integrating psychodynamic hypotheses, cognitive subliminal processes, and psychophysiological alpha power measures. We present ten social phobic subjects with three individually selected groups of words representing unconscious conflict, conscious symptom experience, and Osgood Semantic negative valence words used as a control word group. The unconscious conflict and conscious symptom words, presented subliminally and supraliminally, act as primes preceding the conscious symptom and control words presented as supraliminal targets. With alpha power as (...) a marker of inhibitory brain activity, we show that unconscious conflict primes, only when presented subliminally, have a unique inhibitory effect on conscious symptom targets. This effect is absent when the unconscious conflict primes are presented supraliminally, or when the target is the control words. Unconscious conflict prime effects were found to correlate with a measure of repressiveness in a similar previous study (Shevrin et al., 1992, 1996). Conscious symptom primes have no inhibitory effect when presented subliminally. Inhibitory effects with conscious symptom primes are present, but only when the primes are supraliminal, and they did not correlate with repressiveness in a previous study (Shevrin, et al., 1992, 1996). We conclude that while the inhibition following supraliminal conscious symptom primes is due to conscious threat bias, the inhibition following subliminal unconscious conflict primes provides a neurological blueprint for dynamic repression: it is only activated subliminally by an individual’s unconscious conflict and has an inhibitory effect specific only to the conscious symptom. These novel findings constitute neuroscientific evidence for the psychoanalytic concepts of unconscious conflict and repression, while extending neuroscience theory and methods into the realm of personal, psychological meaning. (shrink)
Classical (trace) conditioning is a specific variant of associative learning in which a neutral stimulus leads to the subsequent prediction of an emotionally charged or noxious stimulus after a temporal gap. When conditioning is concurrent with a distraction task, only participants who can report the relationship (the contingency) between stimuli explicitly show associative learning. This suggests that consciousness is a prerequisite for trace conditioning. We review and question three main controversies concerning this view. Firstly, virtually all animals, even invertebrate sea (...) slugs, show this type of learning; secondly, unconsciously perceived stimuli may elicit trace conditioning; and thirdly, some vegetative state patients show trace learning. We discuss and analyze these seemingly contradictory arguments to find the theoretical boundaries of consciousness in classical conditioning. We conclude that trace conditioning remains one of the best measures to test conscious processing in the absence of explicit reports. (shrink)
Amidst the many brain events evoked by a visual stimulus, which are specifically associated with conscious perception, and which merely reflect non-conscious processing? Several recent neuroimaging studies have contrasted conscious and non-conscious visual processing, but their results appear inconsistent. Some support a correlation of conscious perception with early occipital events, others with late parieto-frontal activity. Here we attempt to make sense of those dissenting results. On the basis of a minimal neuro-computational model, the global neuronal workspace hypothesis, we propose a (...) taxonomy which distinguishes between vigilance and access to conscious report, as well as between subliminal, preconscious and conscious processing. We suggest that these distinctions map onto different neural mechanisms, and that conscious perception is systematically associated with a sudden surge of parieto-frontal activity causing top-down amplification. (shrink)
Assume that we communicate for the purpose of trying to change a person's behavior either overtly or covertly. As long as this is done in an honest manner, no concern with ethics is involved. But suppose a communication pattern — subliminals — is developed that covertly tries to change our behavior without our consent. Then, concern with ethics is involved.Very little evidence exists to support a definitive quantitative impact of subliminal communication. There is a suggestion, however, that subliminals (...) do in fact manipulate people to do certain things. If this is so, then we have an over-riding issue in ethics — the ultimate invasion of a person's privacy — his mind. (shrink)
Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka expands the phenomenological study of meanings (sense-bestowal) into an onto-genetic inquiry by grounding it in a phenomenology of life, including the emotional dimension. This phenomenology of life is informed by the empirical sciences and its doctrines parallel the new scientific paradigm of open dynamic systems. Embedded in the dynamics of the real individuation of life forms, human consciousness emerges at a unique station in the evolutionary process. Tymieniecka treats the constitution of sense as a function of life, and (...) thus the transcendental constitutive function of the cognitive, objectifying intentionality of consciousness, the purview of classical phenomenology, is viewed as a project that is limited in its scope. According to the phenomenology of life, meaning-genesis is exhibited throughout the various stages of structurization in the evolution of life. This paper highlights the transformative function of the “Imaginatio Creatrix,” which is the dynamic process at the human station of evolution that accounts for humanity’s inventive capacities necessary for the construction of a human world. The Imaginatio Creatrix transforms the more primitive stirrings of the human “soul” into subliminal passions of human existential significance. The enactive theory of the mind corroborates Tymieniecka’s rejection of Husserl’s doctrine of passive synthesis. However, Tymieniecka’s study of the creative function offers a key for further advancement in enactive theory. Three sense-bestowing functions of the Imaginatio Creatrix account for the human expansion of life: the Aesthetic/Poetic sense, the Objectifying Sense, and the Moral Sense. The Moral Sense, for Tymieniecka, is not the product of reasoning powers, but rather the fruit of subliminal passions that acquire their moral aspect through trans-actions guided by the “benevolent sentiment.”. (shrink)
It has long been taken for granted in modern psychology that access to the unconscious is indirectly gained through the interpretation of a trained psychoanalyst, evident in theories of Freud, Jung and others. However, my essay problematizes this very indirectness of access by bringing in a Yogācāra Buddhist formulation of the subliminal mind that offers a direct access. By probing into the philosophical significance of the subliminal mind along the bias of its access, I will argue that the (...) different views of the subliminal consciousness correspond to different models of “transcendence” and “immanence.” We will see that the involvement of the transcendence principle in Freud’s and Jung’s conceptualizations of the unconscious results in the denial of direct access to the unconscious; only the Buddhist immanence-based formulation provides direct access. This East-West comparative approach is an attempt to examine how different models of reasoning, vis-à-vis transcendence and immanence, can lead to drastically different theories as well as the practices they instruct. (shrink)
Contrary to Perruchet & Vinter's self-organizing consciousness (SOC) model, subliminal mere exposure (SME) research indicates that stimuli perceived without awareness produce robust effects. Moreover, SME effects are significantly stronger than mere exposure effects produced by clearly recognized stimuli. The SOC model must be revised to accommodate findings from studies that use affect-based outcome measures.
Virtually all experimental psychologists now accept that our behaviour can be affected by stimuli of which we have no conscious awareness. Such effects are typically not very dramatic even though they are reasonably reliable. However, such results do not on the surface appear to offer much support to claims of profound and lasting behavioural changes brought about by subliminal advertising or subliminal self-help tapes.
To date it is unclear whether (1) awareness-independent non-evaluative semantic processes influence affective semantics and whether (2) awareness-independent affective semantics influence non-evaluative semantic processing. In the current study, we investigated these questions with the help of subliminal (masked) primes and visible targets in a space-valence across-category congruence effect. In line with (1), we found that subliminal space prime words influenced valence classification of supraliminal target words (Experiment 1): Classifications were faster with a congruent prime (e.g., the prime ‘up’ (...) before the target ‘happy’) than with an incongruent prime (e.g., the prime ‘up’ before the target ‘sad’). In contrast to (2), no influence of subliminal valence primes on the classification of supraliminal space targets into up- and down-words was found (Experiment 2). Control conditions showed that standard masked response-priming effects were found with both subliminal prime types, and that an across-category congruence effect was also found with supraliminal valence primes and spatial target words. The final Experiment 3 confirmed that the across-category congruence effect indeed reflected priming of target categorization of a relevant meaning category. Together, the data jointly confirmed prediction (1) that awareness-independent non-evaluative semantic priming influences valence judgments. (shrink)
Subjects classified visible 2-digit numbers as larger or smaller than 55. Target numbers were preceded by masked 2-digit primes that were either congruent (same relation to 55) or incongruent. Experiments 1 and 2 showed prime congruency effects for stimuli never included in the set of classified visible targets, indicating subliminal priming based on long-term semantic memory. Experiments 2 and 3 went further to demonstrate paradoxical unconscious priming effects resulting from task context. For example, after repeated practice classifying 73 as (...) larger than 55, the novel masked prime 37 paradoxically facilitated the “larger” response. In these experiments task context could induce subjects to unconsciously process only the leftmost masked prime digit, only the rightmost digit, or both independently. Across 3 experiments, subliminal priming was governed by both task context and long-term semantic memory. (shrink)
This article reports four subliminal perception experiments using the relationship between confidence and accuracy to assess awareness. Subjects discriminated among stimuli and indicated their confidence in each discrimination response. Subjects were classified as being aware of the stimuli if their confidence judgments predicted accuracy and as being unaware if they did not. In the first experiment, confidence predicted accuracy even at stimulus durations so brief that subjects claimed to be performing at chance. This finding indicates that subjects's claims that (...) they are ''just guessing'' should not be accepted as sufficient evidence that they are completely unaware of the stimuli. Experiments 2-4 tested directly for subliminal perception by comparing the minimum exposure duration needed for better than chance discrimination performance against the minimum needed for confidence to predict accuracy. The latter durations were slightly but significantly longer, suggesting that under certain circumstances people can make perceptual discriminations even though the information that was used to make those discriminations is not consciously available. (shrink)