Unconscious priming of task-switching generalizes to an untrained task

Manly, T., Fish, J. E. , Griffiths, S., Molenveld, M., Zhou, F. A. and Davis, G. J. (2014) Unconscious priming of task-switching generalizes to an untrained task. PLoS ONE, 9(2), e88416. (doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0088416) (PMID:24516655) (PMCID:PMC3916426)

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Evidence suggests that subliminal stimuli can influence ostensibly volitional, executive processes but it is unclear whether this is highly task-specific. To address this we used a set-switching task. Volunteers saw a word pair and reported either if both words had the same number of syllables or if both were concrete. Task selection was random and instructed by a hexagon/triangle preceding the words. A subliminally-presented square or diamond reliably preceded each of these consciously perceived instruction-shapes. Significant congruency effects were observed in a subsequent Test Phase in which primes no longer reliably predicted the task (and in which high/low tones now served as conscious instructions). The Generalization Phase required novel phonological (rhyme) or semantic (category) judgments. Remarkably, unconscious priming congruency effects carried over in those participants who had shown priming in the Test Phase, the degree correlating across the two conditions. In a final phase of the study, participants were asked to discriminate between the two originally presented prime shapes. Those participants whose discriminations were more accurate showed reduced priming relative to participants with less accurate discriminations. The results suggest that, rather than being highly task specific, priming can operate at the level of a generalizable process and that greater awareness of primes may lessen their impact on behavior.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:Funding: Medical Research Council (MC-A060-5PQ20). GJD is supported by a John Templeton Foundation Grant.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Fish, Dr Jessica
Authors: Manly, T., Fish, J. E., Griffiths, S., Molenveld, M., Zhou, F. A., and Davis, G. J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > Mental Health and Wellbeing
Journal Name:PLoS ONE
Publisher:Public Library of Science
ISSN (Online):1932-6203
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2014 Manly et al.
First Published:First published in PLoS ONE 9(2): e88416
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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