Do studies of perception without awareness and studies of perception without attention address a similar underlying concept of awareness? To answer this question, we compared qualitative differences in performance across variations in stimulus quality with qualitative differences in performance across variations in the direction of attention . The qualitative differences were based on three different phenomena: Stroop priming, false recognition, and exclusion failure. In all cases, variations in stimulus quality and variations in the direction of attention led to parallel findings. (...) These results suggest that perception with and without awareness and perception with and without attention are equivalent ways of describing the same underlying process distinction. (shrink)
As an alternative to establishing awareness thresholds, stimulus contexts in which there were either greater conscious or greater unconscious influences were defined on the basis of performance on an exclusion task. Target words were presented for brief durations and each target word was followed immediately by its three-letter stem. Subjects were instructed to complete each stem with any word other than the target word. With this task, failures to exclude target words indicate greater unconscious influences, whereas successful exclusion indicates greater (...) conscious influences. Conscious influences were dominant at long durations , but unconscious influences were dominant at short durations . Performance on the exclusion task successfully predicated both qualitative differences in Stroop priming and qualitative differences in recognition memory previously associated with the different effects of conscious and unconscious influences. Taken together, these results demonstrate that an exclusion task allows both unconscious and conscious influences to be defined in terms of significant deviations from baseline performance. As such, exclusion tasks provide a method for distinguishing conscious from unconscious influences that does not require establishing thresholds for null awareness. (shrink)
We examine a condition in which units of time, such as months of the year, are associated with specific locations in space. For individuals with this time-space synaesthesia, contiguous time units such as months are spatially linked forming idiosyncratically shaped patterns such as ovals, oblongs or circles. For some individuals, each time unit appears in a highly specific colour. For instance, one of the synaesthetes we studied experienced December as a red area located at arms length to the left of (...) their body. For the same individual May was a blue area located roughly at arms length to the right of their body. We studied four synaesthetes who report spatial associations for the months of the year. We found that the time-space associations experienced by these individuals were consistent across test–retest. In addition, month names directed visual attention to particular locations in space. For some synaesthetes, this directing of spatial attention was quite rapid-in accord with their reports that month names involuntarily bring to mind spatial locations. (shrink)
The process-dissociation procedure has been used in a variety of experimental contexts to assess the contributions of conscious and unconscious processes to task performance. To evaluate whether motivation affects estimates of conscious and unconscious processes, participants were given incentives to follow inclusion and exclusion instructions in a perception task and a memory task. Relative to a control condition in which no performance incentives were given, the results for the perception task indicated that incentives increased the participants' ability to exclude previously (...) presented information, which in turn both increased the estimate of conscious processes and decreased the estimate of unconscious processes. However, the results also indicated that incentives did not influence estimates of conscious or unconscious processes in the memory task. The findings suggest that the process-dissociation procedure is relatively immune to influences of motivation when used with a memory task, but that caution should be exercised when the process-dissociation is used with a perception task. (shrink)
This paper reviews the history of psychological investigations of unconscious perception and summarizes the current status of experimental research in this area of investigation. The research findings described in the paper illustrate how it is possible to distinguish experimentally between conscious and unconscious perception. The most successful experimental strategy has been to show that a stimulus can have qualitatively different consequences on cognitive and affective reactions depending on whether it was consciously or unconsciously perceived. In addition, recent studies of patients (...) undergoing general anaesthesia have shown that the effects of stimuli perceived unconsciously during surgery can last for approximately 24 hours. Taken together, the results of these recent psychological investigations provide empirical support for the importance of unconsciously perceived information in determining cognitive and affective reactions. (shrink)
The experiments reported by Snodgrass, Shevrin, and Kopka appear to demonstrate that words are perceived even when overall forced-choice discrimination performance does not deviate from chance. We replicated their critical finding in two separate experiments; our results indicated that the subjects′ preferences for one of the two strategy conditions predicted significant deviations from chance performance in the pop condition, even though the overall performance in this condition did not differ from chance. In addition, we found that task preference had no (...) effect when blank cards rather than words were presented and that the words could not be detected when subjects were simply asked to decide on each trial whether a stimulus had been presented. These results suggest that it is possible to demonstrate perception below an objective threshold defined in terms of overall discrimination performance. As such, the results highlight the importance of considering individual differences in studies of perception without awareness. (shrink)
Studies investigating memory for events during anesthesia show a confusing pattern of positive and negative results. To establish whether there are any consistent patterns of findings across studies, we conducted a meta-analysis of the data from 2517 patients in 44 studies. The meta-analysis included two measures of the effects of positive suggestions on postoperative recovery: the duration of postoperative hospitalization and the amount of morphine administered via patient-controlled anesthesia, as well as two measures of memory for specific information presented during (...) anesthesia: direct tests and indirect tests. The meta-analysis indicated that positive suggestions presented during anesthesia have little or no effect on postoperative recovery. On the other hand, the meta-analysis showed that specific information is remembered following surgery, as long as testing is not delayed longer than 36 h. Studies of memory for events during anesthesia provide a useful avenue for exploring unconscious cognition. (shrink)
The illustration of a time–space shown in Fig. 1A of the paper was based on an illustration by Carol Steen entitled “PD’s Time Space” that appeared in Duffy. Blue cats and chartreuse kittens: How synesthetes color their worlds. New York: Henry Holt and Company).
The idea that cognitive processes can be meaningfully classified as conscious or unconscious has a long history in philosophy and psychology. However, even though many experimental reports during the past 100 years claim to demonstrate perception, Ieaming, or memory without conscious awareness, the distinction between conscious and unconscious ’ processes remains highly controversial. For example, the same empirical findings that Holender 1986 concludes provide little or no evidence for unconscious perception are considered by other reviewers as conclusive and overwhelming documentation (...) of the validity of perception without awareness. (shrink)
There are hundreds of indications leading us to conclude that at every moment there is in us an infinity of perceptions, unaccompanied by awareness or reflection; that is, of alterations in the soul itself, of which we are unaware because the impressions are either too minute or too numerous, or else too unvarying, so that they are not sufficiently distinctive on their own. But when they are combined with others they do nevertheless have their effect and make themselves felt, at (...) least confusedly, within the whole. (Leibniz, 1704/1981, p. 53). (shrink)
Many studies directed at demonstrating perception without awareness have relied on the dissociation paradigm. Although the logic underlying this paradigm is relatively straightforward, definitive results have been elusive in the absence of any general consensus as to what constitutes an adequate measure of awareness. We propose an alternative approach that involves comparisons of the relative sensitivity of comparable direct and indirect indexes of perception. The only assumption required by the proposed approach is that the sensitivity of direct discriminations to relevant (...) conscious information is greater than or equal to the sensitivity of comparable indirect discriminations. The proposed approach is illustrated through an evaluation of Avant and Thieman’s recent claim that an indirect measure of perception based on judgments of apparent visual duration provides a more sensitive indicator of perception than does a direct measure based on forced-choice recognition. Contrary to this claim, when direct and indirect indexes are measured under comparable conditions, an indirect measure based on judgments of perceived duration provides a less sensitive index of perceptual processing than do comparable direct measures. The proposed approach provides a general conceptual/methodological framework for using the dissociation paradigm in studies directed at establishing unconscious processes. (shrink)
Changes in the conscious and unconscious influences of memory over time were assessed in two experiments by using a variant of the process-dissociation procedure. In both experiments, performance on a stem-completion task was measured under both inclusion and exclusion instructions. Across the two experiments, there were four different retention intervals: 2 minutes, 2 days, 2 weeks, and 2 months. The results indicated that conscious influences decreased systematically across retention interval. In contrast, unconscious influences of memory in the absence of conscious (...) influences increased between 2 minutes and 2 days, and then remained relatively stable from 2 days to 2 weeks to 2 months. These results stand in apparent contrast to those of McBride and Dosher (1999), which showed equal rates of forgetting for conscious and unconscious influences of memory on performance. The implications for models of the relation between conscious and unconscious influences of memory on performance are discussed. (shrink)
moment there is in us an infinity of perceptions, unaccompanied by awareness or reflection; that is, of alterations in the soul itself, of which we are unaware because the impressions are either too minute or too numerous, or else too unvarying, so that they are not sufficiently distinctive on their own.
In the present article we consider general anesthesia as a means of exploring questions regarding unconscious influence. The primary questions addressed in the research are whether surgical patients who are under adequate general anesthesia unconsciously perceive auditory information and whether they can benefit from such information. In addition, we consider the relevance of individual hypnotic ability for perceptual processing in this context. Ninety-six adult patients, undergoing elective abdominal hysterectomy, were randomly allocated to one of four tape-recorded conditions: therapeutic suggestions, melodies, (...) suggestions-plus-melodies, or silence. Double-blind conditions were satisfied in every respect. Patients received a standardized, but typical, "balanced" anesthetic, and level of anesthesia was adequately monitored. Following surgery, all patients received their analgesic medication from a patient-controlled device. Patients who were played therapeutic suggestions used a significantly smaller dose of morphine than patients who were not played suggestions. Although hypnotic ability was not significantly associated with therapeutic outcome, high but not low hypnotizable patients accurately guessed whether they were played suggestions. No compelling evidence for memory of melodies was obtained. (shrink)