Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
August 2019, Vol. 31, No. 8, Pages 1216-1226
© 2019 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Semantic Knowledge Enhances Conscious Awareness of Visual Objects
Article PDF (1.15 MB)
It is becoming increasingly established that information from long-term memory can influence early perceptual processing, a finding that is in line with recent theoretical approaches to cognition such as the predictive coding framework. Notwithstanding, the impact of semantic knowledge on conscious perception and the temporal dynamics of such an influence remain unclear. To address this question, we presented pictures of novel objects to participants as the second of two targets in an attentional blink paradigm. We found that associating newly acquired semantic knowledge to objects increased overall conscious detection in comparison to objects associated with minimal knowledge while controlling for object familiarity. Additionally, event-related brain potentials revealed a corresponding modulation beginning 100 msec after stimulus presentation in the P1 component. Furthermore, the size of this modulation was correlated with participant's subjective reports of conscious perception. These findings suggest that semantic knowledge can shape the contents of consciousness by affecting early stages of perceptual processing.