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Cognition. 2003 Jun;88(2):223-42.

Conscious control over the content of unconscious cognition.

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Department of Psychology, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, 06099 Halle (Saale), Germany.


Visual stimuli (primes) presented too briefly to be consciously identified can nevertheless affect responses to subsequent stimuli - an instance of unconscious cognition. There is a lively debate as to whether such priming effects originate from unconscious semantic processing of the primes or from reactivation of learned motor responses that conscious stimuli afford during preceding practice. In four experiments we demonstrate that unconscious stimuli owe their impact neither to automatic semantic categorization nor to memory traces of preceding stimulus-response episodes, but to their match with pre-specified cognitive action-trigger conditions. The intentional creation of such triggers allows actors to control the way unconscious stimuli bias their behaviour.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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