NEGATIVE AND POSITIVE MASKED-PRIMING - IMPLICATIONS FOR MOTOR INHIBITION
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Masked stimuli can prime responses to subsequent target stimuli, causing response benefits when the prime is similar to the target. However, one masked-prime paradigm has produced counter-intuitive negative compatibility effects (NCE), such that performance costs occur when prime and target are similar. This NCE has been interpreted as an index of an automatic self-inhibition mechanism that suppresses the partial motor activation caused by the prime. However, several alternative explanations for the NCE have been proposed and supported by new evidence. As a framework for discussion, The author divides the original theory into five potentially separable issues and briefly examines each with regard to alternative theories and current evidence. These issues are: 1) whether the NCE is caused by motor inhibition or perceptual interactions; 2) whether inhibition is self-triggered or stimulus-triggered; 3) whether prime visibility plays a causal role; 4) whether there is a threshold for triggering inhibition; 5) whether inhibition is automatic. Lastly, he briefly considers why NCEs have not been reported in other priming paradigms, and what the neural substrate for any automatic motor inhibition might be.
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