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Cognition. 2001 Jul;80(3):215-29.

Unconscious semantic priming extends to novel unseen stimuli.

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Unité INSERM 334, Service Hospitalier Frédéric Joliot, CEA/DRM/DSV, 4, Place du Général Leclerc, 91401 Orsay Cedex, France.


Many subliminal priming experiments are thought to demonstrate unconscious access to semantics. However, most of them can be reinterpreted in a non-semantic framework that supposes only that subjects learn to map non-semantic visual features of the subliminal stimuli onto motor responses. In order to clarify this issue, we engaged subjects in a number comparison task in which the target number was preceded by another invisible masked number. We show that unconscious semantic priming occurs even for prime stimuli that are never presented as target stimuli, and for which no stimulus-response learning could conceivably occur. We also report analyses of the impact of the numerical relation between prime and target, and of the impact of learning on priming, all of which confirm that unconscious utilization of semantic information is indeed possible.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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