Full-text resources of CEJSH and other databases are now available in the new Library of Science.
Visit https://bibliotekanauki.pl


2007 | 3 | 1-2 | 275-287

Article title

Measuring unconscious cognition: Beyond the zero-awareness criterion


Selected contents from this journal

Title variants

Languages of publication


Visual masking can be employed to manipulate observers' awareness of critical stimuli in studies of masked priming. This paper discusses two different lines of attack for establishing unconscious cognition in such experiments. Firstly,simple dissociationsbetweendirect measures (D)of visual awareness andindirect measures (I)of processing per se occur when I has some nonzero value whileDis at chance level; the traditional requirement of zero awareness is necessary for this criterion only. In contrast,double dissociationsoccur when some experimental manipulation has opposite effects on I andD, for instance, increasing priming effects despite decreasing prime identification performance (Schmidt & Vorberg, 2006). Double dissociations require much weaker measurement assumptions than other criteria. An attractive alternative to this dissociation approach would be to use tasks that are known to violatenecessary conditionsof visual awareness altogether. In particular, it is argued here that priming effects in speeded pointing movements (Schmidt, Niehaus, & Nagel, 2006) occur in the absence of the recurrent processing that is often assumed to be a necessary condition for awareness (for instance, DiLollo, Enns, & Rensink, 2000; Lamme & Roelfsema, 2000). Feedforward tasks such as this might thus be used to measure the time-course of unconscious processing directly, before intracortical feedback and awareness come into play.








Physical description


  • Department of Cognitive Psychology, University of Giessen, Germany


  • Bacon-Macé, N., Macé, M. J. M., Fabre-Thorpe, M., & Thorpe, S. J. (2005). The time course of visual processing: Backward masking and natural scene categorisation.Vision Research, 45, 1459-1469.[PubMed]
  • Breitmeyer, B., & Öğmen, H. (2006).Visual masking: Time slices through conscious and unconscious vision. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Brenner, E., & Smeets, J. B. J. (2004). Colour vision can contribute to fast corrections of arm movements.Experimental Brain Research, 158, 302-307.[PubMed]
  • Bullier, J. (2001) Integrated model of visual processing.Brain Research: Brain Research Reviews, 36, 96-107.[PubMed]
  • Dehaene, S., Naccache, L., Le Clec'H, G., Koechlin, E., Mueller, M., Dehaene-Lambertz, G., van de Moortele, P. F., & Le Bihan, D. (1998). Imaging unconscious semantic priming.Nature, 395, 597-600.[PubMed]
  • DiLollo, V., Enns, J. T., & Rensink, R. A. (2000). Competition for consciousness among visual events: The psychophysics of reentrant visual processes.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 129, 481-507.[PubMed]
  • Dosher, B. A. (1998). The response-window regression method: Some problematic assumptions.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 127, 311-317.
  • Draine, S. C., & Greenwald, A. G. (1998). Replicable unconscious semantic priming.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 127, 286-303.[PubMed]
  • Eimer, M., & Schlaghecken, F. (1998). Effects of masked stimuli on motor activation: Behavioral and electrophysiological evidence.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 1737-1747.[PubMed]
  • Eimer, M., & Schlaghecken, F. (2003). Response facilitation and inhibition in subliminal priming.Biological Psychology, 64, 7-26.[PubMed]
  • Erdelyi, M. H. (2004). Subliminal perception and its cognates: Theory, indeterminacy, and time.Consciousness and Cognition, 13, 73-91.[PubMed]
  • Eriksen, C. W. (1960). Discrimination and learning without awareness: A methodological survey and evaluation.Psychological Review, 67, 279-300.[PubMed]
  • Francis, G. (1997). Cortical dynamics of lateral inhibition: Metacontrast masking.Psychological Review, 104, 572-594.[PubMed]
  • Francis, G., & Herzog, M. H. (2004). Testing quantitative models of backward masking.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11, 104-112.[PubMed]
  • Franz, V. (2006, June).Does unconscious priming exist? Some skeptical views based on ideal observer analysis and information theory. Talk given at the International Workshop on Visual Masking and theDynamics of Vision and Consciousness, Hanse-Wissenschaftskolleg Delmenhorst, Germany.
  • Girard, P., Hupé, J. M., & Bullier, J. (2001). Feedforward and feedback connections between areas V1 and V2 of the monkey have similar rapid conduction velocities.Journal of Neurophysiology, 10, 1563-1573.[PubMed]
  • Greenwald, A. G., Klinger, M. R., & Schuh, E. S. (1995). Activation by marginally perceptible ("subliminal") stimuli: Dissociation of unconscious from conscious cognition.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 124, 22-42.
  • Holender, D. (1986). Semantic activation without conscious identification in dichotic listening, parafoveal vision, and visual masking: A survey and appraisal.Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 9, 1-23.
  • Holender, D., & Duscherer, K. (2004). Unconscious perception: The need for a paradigm shift.Perception & Psychophysics, 66, 872-881.[PubMed]
  • Jaśkowski, P., van der Lubbe, R. H. J., Schlotterbeck, E., & Verleger, R. (2002). Traces left on visual selective attention by stimuli that are not consciously identified.Psychological Science, 13, 48-54.[PubMed]
  • Kirchner, H., & Thorpe, S. J. (2006). Ultra-rapid object detection with saccadic eye movements: Visual processing speed revisited.Vision Research, 46, 1762-1776.[PubMed]
  • Klotz, W., & Neumann, O. (1999). Motor activation without conscious discrimination in metacontrast masking.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25, 976-992.
  • Lamme, V. A. F. (2002). Neural mechanisms of visual awareness: A linking proposition.Brain & Mind, 1, 385-406.
  • Lamme, V. A. F., & Roelfsema, P. R. (2000). The distinct modes of vision offered by feedforward and recurrent processing.Trends in Neurosciences, 23, 571-579.[PubMed]
  • Lamme, V. A. F., Zipser, K., & Spekreijse, H. (2002). Masking interrupts figure-ground signals in V1.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 14, 1044-1053.[PubMed]
  • Leuthold, H., & Kopp, B. (1998). Mechanisms of priming by masked stimuli: Inferences from event-related brain potentials.Psychological Science, 9, 263-269.
  • Lingnau, A., & Vorberg, D. (2005). The time course of response inhibition in masked priming.Perception & Psychophysics, 67, 545-557.[PubMed]
  • Macknik, S. L., & Livingstone, M. S. (1998). Neuronal correlates of visibility and invisibility in the primate visual system.Nature Neuroscience, 1, 144-149.[PubMed]
  • Macknik, S. L., & Haglund, M. M. (1999). Optical images of visible and invisible percepts in the primary visual cortex of primates.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 96, 15208-15210.
  • Mattler, U. (2003). Priming of mental operations by masked stimuli.Perception & Psychophysics, 65, 167-187.[PubMed]
  • Merigan, W. H., & Maunsell, J. H. R. (1993). How parallel are the primate visual pathways?Annual Review of Neuroscience, 16, 369-402.[PubMed]
  • Merikle, P. M., & Cheesman, J. (1987). Current status of research on subliminal perception. In M. Wallendorf & P. F. Anderson (Eds.),Advances in consumer research(Vol. 14, pp. 298-302). Provo, UT: Association for Consumer Research.
  • Merikle, P. M., & Joordens, S. (1997a). Measuring unconscious influences. In J. D. Cohen & J. W. Schooler (Eds.),Scientific approaches to consciousness(pp. 109-123). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Merikle, P. M., & Joordens, S. (1997b). Parallels between perception without attention and perception without awareness.Consciousness and Cognition, 6, 219-236.[PubMed]
  • Merikle, P. M., & Reingold, E. M. (1998). On demonstrating unconscious perception: Comment on Draine and Greenwald (1998).Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 127, 304-310.[PubMed]
  • Miller, J. (2000). Measurement error in subliminal perception experiments: Simulation analyses of two regression methods.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 26, 1461-1477.[PubMed]
  • Murphy, K. R., & Myors, B. (1998).Statistical power analysis: A simple and general model for traditional and modern hypothesis tests. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Neumann, O., & Klotz, W. (1994). Motor responses to non-reportable, masked stimuli: Where is the limit of direct parameter specification? In C. Umiltà & M. Moscovitch (Eds.),Attention and Performance XV(pp. 123-150). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Pascual-Leone, A. & Walsh, V. (2001). Fast backprojections from the motion to the primary visual area necessary for visual awareness.Science, 292, 510-512.[PubMed]
  • Peirce, C. S., & Jastrow, J. (1884). On small differences in sensation.Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences, 3, 73-83. Cited after Merikle & Joordens, 1997a, b.
  • Reingold, E. M. (2004). Unconscious perception and the classic dissociation paradigm: A new angle?Perception & Psychophysics, 66, 882-887.[PubMed]
  • Reingold, E. M., & Merikle, P. M. (1988). Using direct and indirect measures to study perception without awareness.Perception & Psychophysics, 44, 563-575.[PubMed]
  • Reingold, E. M., & Merikle, P. M. (1990). On the inter-relatedness of theory and measurement in the study of unconscious processes.Mind & Language, 5, 9-28.
  • Reingold, E. M., & Merikle, P. M. (1993). Theory and measurement in the study of unconscious processes. In M. Davies & G. W. Humphreys (Eds.),Consciousness. Psychological and philosophical essays, pp. 40-57. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers.
  • Ro, T., Breitmeyer, B., Burton, P., Singhal, N. S., & Lane, D. (2003). Feedback contributions to visual awareness in human occipital cortex.Current Biology, 11, 1038-1041.[PubMed]
  • Rousselet, G. A., Fabre-Thorpe, M., & Thorpe, S. J. (2002). Parallel processing in high-level categorization of natural images.Nature Neuroscience, 5, 629-630.[PubMed]
  • Schmidt, T. (2002). The finger in flight: Real-time motor control by visually masked color stimuli.Psychological Science, 13, 112-118.[PubMed]
  • Schmidt, T., Niehaus, S., & Nagel, A. (2006). Primes and targets in rapid chases: Tracing sequential waves of motor activation.Behavioral Neuroscience, 120, 1005-1016.[PubMed]
  • Schmidt, T., & Vorberg, D. (2006). Criteria for unconscious cognition: Three types of dissociation.Perception & Psychophysics, 68, 489-504.
  • Shallice, T. (1988).From neuropsychology to mental structure. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
  • Shanks, D. R., & St. John, M. F. (1994). Characteristics of dissociable human learning systems.Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 17, 367-447.
  • Snodgrass, M., Bernat, E., & Shevrin, H. (2004). Unconscious perception: A model-based approach to method and evidence.Perception & Psychophysics, 66, 846-867.[PubMed]
  • Sternberg, S. (2001). Separate modifiability, mental modules, and the use of pure and composite measures to reveal them.Acta Psychologica, 106, 147-246.[PubMed]
  • Stroop, J. R. (1935). Studies of interference in serial verbal reactions.Journal of Experimental Psychology, 18, 643-662.
  • Tong, F. (2003). Primary visual cortex and visual awareness.Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 4, 219-229.[PubMed]
  • VanRullen, R., & Koch, C. (2003). Visual selective behavior can be triggered by a feed-forward process.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 15, 209-217.[PubMed]
  • VanRullen, R. & Thorpe, S. J. (2002). Surfing a spike wave down the ventral stream.Vision Research, 42, 2593-2615.[PubMed]
  • Verleger, R., Jaśkowski, P., Aydemir, A., van der Lubbe, R. H. J., & Groen, M. (2004). Qualitative differences between conscious and nonconscious processing? On inverse priming induced by masked arrows.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133, 494-515.[PubMed]
  • Vorberg, D., Mattler, U., Heinecke, A., Schmidt, T., & Schwarzbach, J. (2003). Different time courses for visual perception and action priming.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 100, 6275-6280.[PubMed]
  • Vorberg, D., Mattler, U., Heinecke, A., Schmidt, T., & Schwarzbach, J. (2004). Invariant time-course of priming with and without awareness. In C. Kaernbach, E. Schröger, & H. Möller (Eds.),Psychophysics beyond sensation: Laws and invariants of human cognition(pp. 271-288). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Ansorge, U., & Neumann, O. (2005). Intentions determine the effect of invisible metacontrast-masked primes: Evidence for top-down contingencies in a peripheral cueing task.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 31, 762-777.[PubMed]

Document Type

Publication order reference


YADDA identifier

JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.