Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

Multiple sources of unconscious-information processing affect a single response: independent unconscious priming effects

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At present there is little knowledge on whether and how multiple pieces of unconscious information can simultaneously affect a single conscious response. In the present study, we manipulated the congruency relation between a masked prime arrow and the target arrow, as well as that between masked flankers and the target arrow. The results demonstrated that the masked prime and flankers produced independent unconscious priming effects on the response to the target. In the process of studying the above phenomenon, two secondary findings were made. First, although the prime congruency effect was obtained, the flanker congruency effect was smaller when the flankers were displayed simultaneously with the target than when they were displayed sequentially before the target. This suggested that priming stimulation required enough time to be processed to a sufficient extent to produce an unconscious priming effect. Second, when the prime stimulus was removed, leaving only the flankers, the flanker priming effect increased, suggesting that the attention attracted to the prime and its conscious mask could also reduce the flanker congruency effect. These results observed across several experiments were replicated in one within-subjects experiment. We proposed an “independent unconscious influence hypothesis” for the phenomenon. This hypothesis was further integrated into a more comprehensive unconscious information processing model. The possible causes of the observed phenomena were discussed.


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The Journal of General Psychology