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 | 307-315

Article title

Mechanisms of subliminal response priming

Selected contents from this journal

Title variants

Languages of publication


Subliminal response priming has been considered to operate on several stages, e.g. perceptual, central or motor stages might be affected. While primes' impact on target perception has been clearly demonstrated, semantic response priming recently has been thrown into doubt (e.g. Klinger, Burton, & Pitts, 2000). Finally, LRP studies have revealed that subliminal primes evoke motor processes. Yet, the premises for such prime-evoked motor activation are not settled. A transfer of priming to stimuli that have never been presented as targets appears particularly interesting because it suggests a level of processing that goes beyond a reactivation of previously acquired S-R links. Yet, such transfer has not always withstood empirical testing. To account for these contradictory results, we proposed a two-process model (Kunde, Kiesel, & Hoffmann, 2003): First, participants build up expectations regarding imperative stimuli for the required responses according to experience and/or instructions. Second, stimuli that match these "action triggers" directly activate the corresponding motor responses irrespective of their conscious identification. In line with these assumptions, recent studies revealed that non-target primes induce priming when they fit the current task intentions and when they are expected in the experimental setting.








Physical description


  • Department of Psychology, Julius-Maximilians University of Würzburg, Germany
  • Department of Psychology, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany
  • Department of Psychology, Julius-Maximilians University of Würzburg, Germany


  • Ansorge, U., & Heumann, M. (2003). Top-down contingencies in peripheral cuing: The roles of color and location.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 29, 937-948.[PubMed]
  • Ansorge, U., & Heumann, M. (2006). Shifts of visuospatial attention to invisible (metacontrast-masked singletons: Clues from reaction times and event-related potential.Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 2, 61-76.http://www.ac-psych.org/index.php?id=2&rok=2006&issue=1#article_6
  • Ansorge, U., Heumann, M., & Scharlau, I. (2002). Influences of visibility, intentions, and probability in a peripheral cuing task.Consciousness and Cognition, 11, 528-545.[PubMed]
  • 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]
  • Bargh, J. A. (1989). Conditional automaticity: Varieties of automatic influence in social perception and cognition. In J. S. Uleman & J. A. Bargh (Eds.),Unintended Thought(pp. 3-51). New York: The Guilford Press.
  • Bodner, G. E., & Dypvik, A. T. (2005). Masked priming of number judgements depends on prime validity and task.Memory & Cognition, 33, 29-47.[PubMed]
  • Bodner, G. E., & Masson, M. E. J. (1997). Masked repetition priming of words and nonwords: Evidence for a nonlexical basis for Priming.Journal of Memory & Language, 37, 268-293.
  • Bodner, G. E., & Masson, M. E. J. (2003). Beyond spreading activation: An influence of relatedness proportion on masked semantic priming.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 10, 645-652.[PubMed]
  • Damian, M. F. (2001). Congruity effects evoked by subliminally presented primes: Automaticity rather than semantic processing.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 27, 154-165.[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]
  • Dell'Acqua, R., & Grainger, J. (1999). Unconscious semantic priming from pictures.Cognition, 73, B1-B15.[PubMed]
  • Deutsch, J. A., & Deutsch, D. (1963). Attention: Some theoretical considerations.Psychological Review, 70, 80-90.[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]
  • Exner, S. (1879). Physiologie der Großhirnrinde [Physiology of the cerebral cortex]. In L. Hermann (Ed.),Handbuch der Physiologie, 2. Band, 2. Theil (pp. 189-350). Leipzig: Vogel.
  • Galton, F. (1880). Visualised numerals.Nature, 21, 252-256.
  • Göbel, S., Walsh, V., & Rushworth, M. F. S. (2001). The mental number line and the human angular gyrus.NeuroImage, 14, 1278-1289.[PubMed]
  • Greenwald, A. G., Abrams, R. L., Naccache, L., & Dehaene, S. (2003). Long-term semantic memory versus contextual memory in unconscious number processing.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 29, 235-247.[PubMed]
  • Greenwald, A. G., Draine, S. C., & Abrams, R. L. (1996). Three cognitive markers of unconscious semantic activation.Science, 273, 1699-1702.[PubMed]
  • 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, 1-66.
  • Holender, D., & Duscherer, K. (2004). Unconscious perception: The need for a paradigm shift.Perception & Psychophysics, 66, 872-881.[PubMed]
  • Hommel, B. (2000). The prepared reflex: Automaticity and control in stimulus-response translation. In S. Monsell & J. Driver (Eds.),Attention and performance 18: Control of Cognitive Processes. Attention and performance series(pp. 247-273). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Jaśkowski, P., Skalska, B., & Verleger, R. (2003). How the self controls its "automatic pilot" when processing subliminal information.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 15, 911-920.[PubMed]
  • Kiefer, M. (2002). The N400 is modulated by unconsciously perceived masked words: Further evidence for an automatic spreading activation account of N400 priming effects.Cognitive Brain Research, 13, 27-39.[PubMed]
  • Kiefer, M., & Spitzer, M. (2000). Time course of conscious and unconscious semantic brain activation.NeuroReport, 11, 2401-2407.[PubMed]
  • Kiesel, A., Kunde, W., & Hoffmann, J. (2007). Unconscious priming according to multiple S-R rules.Cognition, 104, 89-105.[PubMed]
  • Kiesel, A., Kunde, W., Pohl, C., & Hoffmann, J. (2006). Priming from novel masked stimuli depends on target set size.Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 2, 37-45.http://www.ac-psych.org/index.php?id=2&rok=2006#article_10
  • Klauer, K. C., Musch, J., & Eder, A. B. (2005). Priming of semantic classifications: Late and response-related, or earlier and more central?Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 12, 897-903.[PubMed]
  • Klinger, M. R., Burton, P. C., & Pitts, G. S. (2000). Mechanisms of unconscious priming: I. Response competition, not spreading activation.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 26, 441-455.[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.
  • Koechlin, E., Naccache, L., Block, E., & Dehaene, S. (1999). Primed numbers: Exploring the modularity of numerical representations with masked and unmasked semantic priming.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25, 1882-1905.
  • Kunde, W. (2003). Sequential modulations of stimulus-response correspondence effects depend on awareness of response conflict.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 10, 198-205.[PubMed]
  • Kunde, W., Kiesel, A., & Hoffmann, J. (2003). Conscious control over the content of unconscious cognition.Cognition, 88, 223-242.[PubMed]
  • Kunde, W., Kiesel, A., & Hoffmann, J. (2005). On the masking and disclosure of unconscious elaborate processing. A reply to Van Opstal, Reynvoet, & Verguts.Cognition, 97, 99-105.
  • Leuthold, H., & Kopp, B. (1998). Mechanisms of priming by masked stimuli: Inferences from event-related brain potentials.Psychological Science, 9, 263-269.
  • Lleras, A., & Enns, J. T. (2004). Negative compatibility or object updating? A cautionary tale of mask-dependent priming.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133, 475-493.[PubMed]
  • Marcel, T. (1980). Conscious and preconscious recognition of polysemous words: Locating the selective effects of prior verbal context. In J. Long & A. Baddeley (Eds.),Attention and Performance VIII(pp. 435-457). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Marcel, A. J. (1983). Conscious and unconscious perception: An approach to the relations between phenomenal experience and perceptual processes.Cognitive Psychology, 15, 238-300.[PubMed]
  • Mattler, U. (2003). Priming of mental operations by masked stimuli.Perception & Psychophysics, 65, 167-187.[PubMed]
  • Mayr, U. (2004). Conflict, consciousness, and control.Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 8, 145-148.[PubMed]
  • McCormick, P. A. (1997). Orienting attention without awareness.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 23, 168-180.[PubMed]
  • Naccache, L., & Dehaene, S. (2001). Unconscious semantic priming extends to novel unseen stimuli.Cognition, 80, 215-229.[PubMed]
  • Neely, J. H. (1991). Semantic priming effects in visual word recognition: A selective review of current findings and theories. In D. Besner & G. W. Humphreys (Eds.),Basic Processes in Reading: Visual Word Recognition(pp. 264-336). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Neumann, O. (1990). Direct parameter specification and the concept of perception.Psychological Research, 52, 207-215.[PubMed]
  • Neumann, O., & Klotz, W. (1994). Motor responses to nonreportable, masked stimuli: Where is the limit of direct parameter specification? In C. Umilta & M. Moscovitch (Eds.),Attention and Performance XV. Conscious and Nonconscious Information Processing(pp. 123-150). Cambridge: MIT Press.
  • Reingold, E. M., & Merikle, P. M. (1993). Theory and measurement in the study of unconscious processes. In M. Davies & G. Humphreys (Eds.),Consciousness: Psychological and Philosophical Essays. Readings in Mind and Language, Vol. 2 (pp. 40-57). Malden, MA, US: Blackwell Publishers Inc.
  • Reynvoet, B., Gevers, W., & Caessens, B. (2005). Unconscious primes activate motor codes through semantics.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, 31, 991-1000.[PubMed]
  • Scharlau, I. (2002). Leading, but not trailing, primes influence temporal order perception: Further evidence for an attentional account of perceptual latency priming.Perception & Psychophysics, 64, 1346-1360.[PubMed]
  • Scharlau, I. (2004). Evidence against response bias in temporal order tasks with attention manipulation by masked primes.Psychological Research, 68, 224-236.[PubMed]
  • Scharlau, I., & Ansorge, U. (2003). Direct parameter specification of an attention shift: Evidence from perceptual latency priming.Vision Research, 43, 1351-1363.[PubMed]
  • Scharlau, I., & Neumann, O. (2003). Perceptual latency priming by masked and unmasked stimuli: Evidence for an attentional interpretation.Psychological Research, 67, 184-196.[PubMed]
  • Schlaghecken, F., & Eimer, M. (2004). Masked stimuli can bias "free" choices between response alternatives.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 11, 463-468.[PubMed]
  • Sidis, B. (1898).The psychology of suggestion.New York: Appleton.
  • Snodgrass, M., Bernat, E., & Shevrin, H. (2004). Unconscious perception: A model-based approach to method and evidence.Perception & Psychophysics, 66, 846-867.[PubMed]
  • Verleger, R., Jaśkowski, P., Aydemir, A., Van der Lubbe, R. H. J., & Groen, M. (2004). Qualitative differences between conscious and non-conscious processing? On negative and positive priming effects induced by masked arrows.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 133, 494-515.[PubMed]
  • Abrams, R. L., & Greenwald, A. G. (2000). Parts outweigh the whole (word) in unconscious analysis of meaning.Psychological Science, 11, 118-124.[PubMed]
  • Ach, N. (1905).Über die Willenstätigkeit und das Denken [On the act of volition and thinking].Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.

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.