Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

Can unconscious sequential integration of semantic information occur when the prime Chinese characters are displayed from left to right?

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Recent studies have investigated whether conscious awareness is necessary for semantic integration. Although results have varied, simultaneous presentation of words have consistently led to greater semantic integration than sequential presentation in a single location. The current studies were designed to investigate whether the disadvantage of sequential presentation for unconscious semantic integration is specific to unfamiliar word-by-word presentation in one location or extends to the more natural reading conditions of viewing items sequentially from left to right. In Experiment 1, when the first three characters of Chinese idioms were presented simultaneously under masked conditions, performance on a separate two-alternative forced-choice recognition task was at chance level. Despite being unaware of the identity of prime characters, participants were faster to indicate that a subsequent item was a Chinese character when it was congruent with the beginning of the idiom, thus providing evidence of semantic integration. In contrast, when the three (Experiment 2) or two (Experiment 3) prime characters were presented sequentially in time from left to right, there was no evidence of semantic integration. These results indicate that unconscious semantic integration is more limited than previously reported, and may require simultaneous visual presentation.


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Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics