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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 1994 Mar;20(2):304-17.

Unconscious perception: attention, awareness, and control.

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Department of Psychology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.


Conscious perception is substantially overestimated when standard measurement techniques are used. That overestimation has contributed to the controversial nature of studies of unconscious perception. A process-dissociation procedure (L. L. Jacoby, 1991) was used for separately estimating the contribution of conscious and unconscious perception to performance of a stem-completion task. Unambiguous evidence for unconscious perception was obtained in 4 experiments. In Experiment 1, decreasing the duration of a briefly presented word diminished the contribution of both conscious and unconscious perception. In Experiments 2-4, dividing attention reduced the contribution of conscious perception while leaving that of unconscious perception unchanged. Discussion focuses on the measurement of awareness and the relation between perception and memory.

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