Masked priming effects in semantic categorization are independent of category size

Document Type: 
ASSC Conference Item
Article Type: 
Unconscious States Processing
Deposited by: 
Mrs Eva Van den Bussche
Date of Issue: 
Eva Van den Bussche, Bert Reynvoet
Event Dates: 
23-26 June 2006
Event Location: 
Event Title: 
10th annual meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness
Event Type: 
ASSC Conference
Presentation Type: 
The question whether subliminal primes can activate their semantic meaning or not is still very alive today. Three different competing theories have tried to account for the often inconsistent research results: the semantic categorization hypothesis, where subliminal primes are assumed to be processed in a series of processing stages, including semantic categorization; the direct motor specification hypothesis, which hypothesizes that subjects can unconsciously develop automatized stimulus-response mappings, bypassing semantic access; and finally the category search model which states that due to the impossibility of an exhaustive search of all members of a broad category, subliminal priming can only be obtained for small categories. The present study aimed to shed light on these different points of view by examining the role of category size in response congruency effects when novel primes are used. Three experiments were conducted, using both small and broad categories, both small and large stimulus sets and various tasks. A transparent pattern of results emerged: significant priming effects were obtained across different tasks, irrespective of category size and irrespective of stimulus set size. The findings are discussed in terms of the three theoretical frameworks. Summarizing the results, we conclude that neither the direct motor specification hypothesis, nor the category search model can explain our findings. It becomes clear that the present results provide strong evidence in favour of the semantic categorization hypothesis, which assumes semantic processing of subliminal primes.
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