SPECIFYING ATTENTIONAL TOP-DOWN INFLUENCES ON SUBSEQUENT UNCONSCIOUS SEMANTIC PROCESSING
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Classical theories assume that unconscious automatic processes are autonomous and independent of higher-level cognitive influences. In contrast, we propose that automatic processing depends on a specific configuration of the cognitive system by top-down control. In 2 experiments, we tested the influence of available attentional resources and previously activated task sets on masked semantic priming in a lexical decision task. In Experiment 1, before masked prime presentation, participants were engaged in an easy or hard primary task that differentially afforded attentional resources. Semantic priming was attenuated when the primary task was hard, that is, when only little attentional resources were available. In Experiment 2, a semantic or perceptual induction task differentially modulated subsequent masked semantic priming. Hence, unconscious automatic processing depends on the availability of attentional resources and is susceptible to top-down control.
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