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Masked primes evoke partial motor responses

McBride, Jennifer, Sumner, Petroc ORCID: and Husain, Masud 2018. Masked primes evoke partial motor responses. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 71 (6) , pp. 1431-1439. 10.1080/17470218.2017.1329326

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Backward-masked primes presented outside conscious awareness can affect responses to subsequently presented target stimuli. Differences in response times have been used to infer a pattern of sub-threshold activation and subsequent inhibition of motor plans associated with the primes. However, it is unclear whether competition between alternative responses is fully resolved in the brain or whether activated responses can begin being executed before the final decision to act has been made. Here, we investigate the dynamics of responses evoked by masked primes using a continuous measure – voltage change in force-sensing resistors simultaneously in both hands. Masked primes produced the predicted pattern of motor activation and subsequent inhibition of the primed response. There is no evidence that the effects of masked primes interact with spatial compatibility (e.g., Simon) effects, suggesting separate mechanisms underpinning these effects. Moreover, masked primes evoked partial motor decisions – measurable at the effectors as small amounts of erroneous response – which were usually rapidly corrected. Together, these errors and fast corrections question the ‘sub-threshold’ nature of responses evoked by masked primes and provide important constraints on models of decision-making.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
ISSN: 0033-555X
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 10 May 2017
Date of Acceptance: 30 April 2017
Last Modified: 07 May 2023 09:44

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