Context-specific prime-congruency effects: On the role of conscious stimulus representations for cognitive control

Consciousness and Cognition 18 (4):966-976 (2009)
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Abstract

Recent research suggests that processing of irrelevant information can be modulated in a rapid online fashion by contextual information in the task environment depending on the usefulness of that information in different contexts. Congruency effects evoked by irrelevant stimulus attributes are smaller in contexts with high proportions of incongruent trials and larger in contexts with high proportions of congruent trials . The present study investigates these context-adaptation effects in a masked-priming paradigm. Context-specific adaptation effects transfer to stimulus identities that are equiprobale in all contexts – an observation that renders explanations in terms of event-learning processes unlikely. Yet, context-specific effects vanished when the irrelevant information remained unconscious. The results suggest that context-specific adaptation of congruency effects reflect cognitive control operations that alter the processing of irrelevant information depending on the experienced utility of that information for action control

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