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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

August 15, 2003, Vol. 15, No. 6, Pages 911-920
(doi: 10.1162/089892903322370825)
© 2003 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
How the Self Controls Its “Automatic Pilot” when Processing Subliminal Information
Article PDF (288.6 KB)

Human performance may be primed by information not consciously available. Can such priming become so overwhelming that observers cannot help but act accordingly? In the present study, well-visible stimuli were preceded by whole series of unidentifiable stimuli. These series had strong, additive priming effects on behavior. However, their effect depended on the frequency with which they provided information conflicting to the visible main stimuli. Thus, effects of subliminal priming are under observers' strategic control, with the criterion presumably set as a function of the openly observable error frequency. Electrical brain potentials show that this criterion acts simultaneously at the level of visual discrimination of the primes and at motor activation evoked by the primes, thereby shielding observers from unwanted information.