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Biol Psychol. 2003 Oct;64(1-2):7-26.

Response facilitation and inhibition in subliminal priming.

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  • 1School of Psychology, Birkbeck College, University of London, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX, UK.


The research reviewed in this article has investigated with behavioural, electrophysiological, and functional imaging methods how subliminally presented masked prime stimuli affect response-related processes. An initial response activation triggered by these primes was found to be followed by an inhibition of this response tendency, provided that the initial activation was strong enough to exceed an 'inhibition threshold'. This biphasic pattern is assumed to reflect the presence of self-inhibitory circuits in motor control. In contrast to endogenous response inhibition, observed when response-relevant signals are consciously perceived, this exogenous mode of response inhibition appears to be mediated by corticostriate rather than by prefrontal mechanisms. Overall, results demonstrate that inhibitory mechanisms are involved in the control of response processes, even when motor activations are triggered by stimuli that are not accessible to conscious awareness.

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