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Attentional modulation of sensorimotor processes in the absence of perceptual awareness

Sumner, Petroc ORCID:, Tsai, Pei-Chun, Yu, Kenny and Nachev, Parashkev 2006. Attentional modulation of sensorimotor processes in the absence of perceptual awareness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) ISSN 1091-6490 103 (27) , pp. 10520-10525. 10.1073/pnas.0601974103

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Attention modulates visual perception and is generally considered inextricably linked with conscious awareness: we become aware of stimuli as we attend to them, and we attend to stimuli as we become aware of them. Recent evidence suggests that attention can also modulate the effects of stimuli that remain invisible, and a natural explanation is that attention enhances weak perceptual representations, bringing them closer to conscious threshold even if they do not reach that threshold. However, there is also the possibility that attention may modulate neural processes that are entirely separate from those supporting conscious perception: sensorimotor mechanisms that do not create awareness however much they are enhanced. Here we provide evidence in support of this second hypothesis by showing that attentional cueing can modulate the behavioral response to invisible stimuli in a way that is distinct from enhancing their visibility. We used a masked-prime paradigm that produces a negative or positive compatibility effect depending on the perceptual strength (duration or brightness) of the prime. We found that attention enhanced the effect of both visible and invisible primes and also increased the likelihood of detecting the prime (i.e., boosted perceptual strength). Crucially, the pattern of attentional influence on priming could not be explained by attentional modulation of the prime’s perceptual strength but was predicted by a direct attentional influence on the nonconscious priming process itself. Therefore, in addition to regulating what we perceive, attention seems to influence our behavior through sensorimotor processes that are not involved in conscious awareness.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Uncontrolled Keywords: priming; unconscious; motor inhibition; action
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
ISSN: 1091-6490
Last Modified: 17 Oct 2022 09:31

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