Negative congruency effects: A test of the inhibition account

Consciousness and Cognition 17 (1):1-21 (2008)
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Abstract

Masked priming experiments occasionally revealed surprising effects: Participants responded slower for congruent compared to incongruent primes. This negative congruency effect was ascribed to inhibition of prime-induced activation [Eimer, M., & Schlaghecken, F. . Response faciliation and inhibition in subliminal priming. Biological Psychology, 64, 7–26.] that sets in if the prime activation is sufficiently strong. The current study tests this assumption by implementing manipulations designed to vary the amount of prime-induced activation in three experiments. In Experiments 1 and 3, NCEs were observed despite reduced prime-induced activation. Experiment 2 revealed no NCE with at least similar prime strength. Thus, the amount of prime activation did not predict whether or not NCEs occurred. The findings are discussed with regard to the inhibition account and the recently proposed account of mask-induced activation [cf. Lleras, A., & Enns, J. T. . Negative compatibility or object updating? A cautionary tale of mask-dependent priming. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133, 475–493; Verleger, R., Jaskowski, P., Aydemir, A., van der Lubbe, R. H. J., & Groen, M. . Qualitative differences between conscious and nonconscious processing? On inverse priming induced by masked arrows. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133, 494–515]

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