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Semantic priming goes both ways: Semantic content of subsequent target stimuli interferes with the discrimination of preceding priming stimuli
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Psychology.
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Claims of subliminal semantic processing are commonly supported by experiments using stimuli that participants cannot discriminate between and therefore, it is said, cannot perceive. Critical to this operationalization of lack of perception is that discrimination performance is measured under optimal conditions and is not impaired by factors unrelated to perception. Here we report that in the standard paradigm of subliminal processing, prime-stimulus discrimination was underestimated due to the semantic content of the subsequent target stimulus: Just as the prime stimuli interfered with target-discrimination responses (leading to slower reaction times and more errors), the semantic content of target stimuli interfered with participants’ prime-discrimination performance. This is a hitherto neglected factor that may interfere with participants’ ability to report fleeting percepts of the prime stimuli, leading to underestimation of perception and potentially to false support of subliminal semantic processing.

Keyword [en]
Subliminal priming, Visual masking, Consciousness, Awareness, Unconscious processing, Semantic priming
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-132207OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-132207DiVA: diva2:950580
Funder
Lars Hierta Memorial Foundation, FO2015-0940
Available from: 2016-08-01 Created: 2016-08-01 Last updated: 2016-08-10Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Subliminal or not?: An appraisal of semantic processing in the near absence of visual awareness
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Subliminal or not?: An appraisal of semantic processing in the near absence of visual awareness
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Stimuli that cannot be perceived (i.e., that are subliminal) can still elicit neural responses in an observer, but can such stimuli influence behavior and higher-order cognition? Empirical evidence for such effects has periodically been accepted and rejected over the last six decades. Today, many psychologists seem to consider such effects well-established and recent studies have extended the power of subliminal processing to new limits. In this thesis, I examine whether this shift in zeitgeist is matched by a shift in evidential strength for the phenomenon.

This thesis consists of three empirical studies involving more than 250 participants, a simulation study, and a quantitative review. The conclusion based on these efforts is that several methodological, statistical, and theoretical issues remain in studies of subliminal processing. These issues mean that claimed subliminal effects might be caused by occasional or weak percepts (given the experimenters’ own definitions of perception) and that it is still unclear what evidence there is for the cognitive processing of subliminal stimuli. New data are presented suggesting that even in conditions traditionally claimed as “subliminal”, occasional or weak percepts may in fact influence cognitive processing more strongly than do the physical stimuli, possibly leading to reversed priming effects. I also summarize and provide methodological, statistical, and theoretical recommendations that could benefit future research aspiring to provide solid evidence for subliminal cognitive processing.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Psychology, Stockholm University, 2016. 102 p.
Keyword
Subliminal priming, Signal detection theory, Bayesian statistics, Visual masking, Consciousness, Awareness, Unconscious processing, Semantic priming
National Category
Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
Research subject
Psychology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-132211 (URN)978-91-7649-454-7 (ISBN)
External cooperation:
Public defence
2016-09-23, David Magnussonsalen (U31), Frescati Hagväg 8, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.

 

Available from: 2016-08-31 Created: 2016-08-01 Last updated: 2016-08-31Bibliographically approved

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Sand, AndersWesterlund, JoakimNilsson, Mats E.
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