On the role of mask structure in subliminal priming
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Choice reaction times to visual stimuli may be influenced by preceding subliminal stimuli (primes). Some authors reported a straight priming effect i.e., responses were faster when primes and targets called for the same response than when they called for different responses. Other authors found a reversed pattern of results. Our results suggest that the sign of the priming effect depends on mask structure. Inverse priming was obtained only for masks containing the searched-for feature even though informational content of the masks was neutral. With masks of irrelevant structure, straight priming effects were found. Thus, masks are not passive stimuli whose roles are limited to rendering the prime invisible. Processing of the mask may interact with prime and target processing. Implications of the results are discussed for two hypotheses trying to account for straight and inverse priming (the self-inhibition hypothesis and object-updating hypothesis).
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Piotr Jaskowski, Department of Cognitive Psychology, University of Finance and Management, 55 Pawia St., 01-030 Warsaw, Poland