Semantic priming: On the role of awareness in visual word recognition in the absence of an expectancy

Consciousness and Cognition 11 (3):402-422 (2002)
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By hypothesis, awareness is involved in the modulation of feedback from semantics to the lexical level in the visual word recognition system. When subjects are aware of the fact that there are many related prime–target pairs in a semantic priming experiment, this knowledge is used to configure the system to feed activation back from semantics to the lexical level so as to facilitate processing. When subjects are unaware of this fact, the default set is maintained in which activation is not fed back from semantics to the lexical level so as to conserve limited resources. Qualitative differences in the pattern of data from two lexical decision experiments that employ masked priming are consistent with this hypothesis. Semantic context and stimulus quality interact when the prime is processed with awareness whereas these same two factors produce additive effects on RT when the prime is unlikely to have been processed with awareness. These experiments thus illustrate one way in which awareness affects the dynamics of visual word recognition



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