When the stored representation of the meaning of a stimulus is accessed through the processing of a sensory input it is maintained in an activated state for a certain amount of time that allows for further processing. This semantic activation is generally accompanied by conscious identification, which can be demonstrated by the ability of a person to perform discriminations on the basis of the meaning of the stimulus. The idea that a sensory input can give rise to semantic activation without (...) concomitant conscious identification was the central thesis of the controversial research in subliminal perception. Recently, new claims for the existence of such phenomena have arisen from studies in dichotic listening, parafoveal vision, and visual pattern masking. Because of the fundamental role played by these types of experiments in cognitive psychology, the new assertions have raised widespread interest. (shrink)
We analyze some of the recent evidence for unconscious semantic access stemming from tasks that, although based on a priming procedure, generate semantic congruity effects because of response competition, not semantic priming effects. We argue that such effects cannot occur without at least some glimpses of awareness about the identity and the meaning of a significant proportion of the primes.