Previous research has shown that subliminally presented stimuli accelerate or delay responses afforded by supraliminally presented stimuli. Our experiments extend these findings by showing that unconscious stimuli even affect free choices between responses. Thus, actions that are phenomenally experienced as freely chosen are influenced without the actor becoming aware of the manipulation. However, the unconscious influence is limited to a response bias, as participants chose the primed response only in up to 60% of the trials. LRP data in free choice (...) trials indicate that the prime was not ineffective in trials in which participants chose the non-primed response as then it delayed performance of the incongruently primed response. (shrink)
Using an explicit task cuing paradigm, we tested whether masked cues can trigger task-set activation, which would suggest that unconsciously presented stimuli can impact cognitive control processes. Based on a critical assessment of previous findings on the priming of task-set activation, we present two experiments with a new method to approach this subject. Instead of using a prime, we varied the visibility of the cue. These cues either directly signaled particular tasks in Experiment 1, or certain task transitions in Experiment (...) 2. While both masked task and transition cues affected task choice, only task cues affected the speed of task performance. This observation suggests that task-specific stimulus–response rules can be activated only by masked cues that are uniquely associated with a particular task. Taken together, these results demonstrate that unconsciously presented stimuli have the power to activate corresponding task sets. (shrink)
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. (shrink)
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]. (shrink)
Recently, priming effects of unconscious stimuli that were never presented as targets have been taken as evidence for the processing of the stimuli’s semantic categories. The present study explored the necessary conditions for a transfer of priming to novel primes. Stimuli were digits and letters which were presented in various viewer-related orientations . The transfer of priming to novel stimulus orientations and identities was remarkably limited: in Experiment 1, in which all conscious targets stood upright, no transfer to unconscious primes (...) in a non-target orientation was found. Experiment 2, in which primes were presented without masks, ruled out the possibility that primes were presented too short to allow congruency effects. In Experiments 3 and 4, in which all targets were presented upside down, priming transferred to upright stimuli with target identities but neither to horizontal stimuli nor to stimuli with novel identities. We suggest that whether a transfer of priming to unpracticed stimuli occurs or not depends on observers’ expectations of specific stimulus exemplars. (shrink)
In masked priming tasks responses are usually faster when prime and target require identical rather than different responses. Previous research has extensively manipulated the nature and number of response-affording stimuli. However, little is known about the constraints of masked priming regarding the nature and number of response alternatives. The present study explored the limits of masked priming in a six-choice reaction time task, where responses from different fingers of both hands were required. We studied participants that were either experts for (...) the type of response or novices. Masked primes facilitated responding to targets that required the same response, responses with a different finger of the same hand, and with a homologous finger of the other hand. These effects were modulated by expertise. The results show that masked primes facilitate responding especially for experts in the S–R mapping and with increasing similarity of primed and required response. (shrink)
This commentary focuses on Hommel et al.'s inferences on action planning. It discusses the relevance of anticipated extrinsic movement effects for action control, the problems of a feature-based representation of actions, and the necessity of the acquisition of conditional movement-effect associations.
Rule violations have usually been studied from a third-person perspective, identifying situational factors that render violations more or less likely. A first-person perspective of the agent that actively violates the rules, on the other hand, is only just beginning to emerge. Here we show that committing a rule violation sensitises towards subsequent negative stimuli as well as subsequent authority-related stimuli. In a Prime-Probe design, we used an instructed rule-violation task as the Prime and a word categorisation task as the Probe. (...) Also, we employed a control condition that used a rule inversion task as the Prime. Probe targets were categorised faster after a violation relative to after a rule-based response if they related to either, negative valence or authority. Inversions, however, primed only negative stimuli and did not accelerate the categorisation of authority-related stimuli. A heightened sensitivity towards authority-related targets thus seems to be specific to rule violations. A control experiment showed that these effects cannot be explained in terms of semantic priming. Therefore, we propose that rule violations necessarily activate authority-related representations that make rule violations qualitatively different from simple rule inversions. (shrink)