PRIMING THE PRIMES: SUBSEQUENT TARGETS DISTINCTLY AFFECT PRECEDING-PRIME TRACES ACQUIRED WITH AND WITHOUT AWARENESS

  • Alexander Sokolov
  • Pietro Guardini
  • Marina Pavlova

Abstract

Priming is commonly viewed as altered subsequent target processing by preceding prime stimuli. Here, we ask how, if at all, subsequent salient targets modulate memory-trace processing of preceding primes (i.e., backward priming) accomplished with and without awareness. On a trial, participants saw a prime, a mask, and a target in succession, pressing a respective key to report prime identity (a square with or without gaps in its outline that was either congruent or incongruent with the target). In Experiments 1 and 2, prime identification was above and at chance level, respectively. With prime awareness (Experiment 1), target-prime congruency yielded reduced response times, while without prime awareness (Experiment 2), reduced error rates occurred for the congruent primes. The results show for the first time the existence of backward (retroactive) priming of the prime’s memory traces by subsequent salient targets. Moreover, the findings suggest an awareness-dependent dissociation of backward priming that engages either response processing or solely sensory representations of stimuli with discriminable and indiscriminable prime identity, respectively.

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