Subliminal Perception. Zolt án Dienes Conscious and unconscious mental processes. Subliminal perception = perceiving without being aware of perceiving Conscious perception can be blocked with masking. Masked stimulus. Forward mask. Backward mask. ISI. ISI = inter-stimulus interval
Zoltán Dienes Conscious and unconscious mental processes
Conscious perception can be blocked with masking
ISI = inter-stimulus interval
SOA = stimulus onset asynchrony
Dichoptic: mask and word presented to different eyes
Noise mask must be presented to same eye as to-be-masked stimulus
Pattern mask can be presented dichoptically
=> The effect of a pattern mask on visual processing occurs more centrally than the effect of noise masking
Random collection of the parts of the stimulus to be masked – e.g. letters or letter parts for word stimuli
Each pixel can be randomly on or off
N=12 subjects , three masking conditions
Pattern masked (dichoptic)
In the Marcel experiments, if subjects not confident they definitely saw something, they may say “no” on every trial.
=> discrimination performance = 50%
But if subjects are forced to respond “yes” 50% of time, maybe they would be above chance?
Maybe Marcel had not found the objective threshold for discrimination?
Cheesman & Merikle presented subjects with one of four colour words (“red”, “green”, etc). On each trial, subjects had to say which word had been presented.
(Now even if subjects believed they saw nothing, have to guess something.)
After each block of 40 trials, the SOA was reduced until subjects were performing at chance.
After each block of trials, subjects estimated how accurate they had been.
- If they felt they had no information whatsoever, they were just guessing purely randomly, subjects gave an estimate of 25% correct (=chance expectation).
- If they were certain, they would give an estimate of 100%.
- Subjects could give any value between 25% and 100%.
Subjective threshold = the SOA at which subjects believe they are performing at chance
Objective threshold = the SOA at which subjects really are performing at chance.
1) The subjective threshold is reached at a higher SOA than the objective threshold.
=> the two thresholds are different
2) Stroop priming is obtained for colour words presented below the subjective threshold, but NOT below the objective threshold.
Conclusion: BOTH results indicate unconscious processing below a subjective threshold.
But no evidence for unconscious processing below an objective threshold.
Research since then has confirmed it is easy to get unconscious perception below a subjective threshold, but difficult below an objective threshold (for semantic processing)
Greenwald (1992) found that 93% of the cognitive psychologists he surveyed regarded subliminal perception as having been demonstrated below a subjective threshold.
Jacoby, Toth, Lindsay, & Debner (1992)
1000 ms ' +'
500 ms 'glove'
50 or 500 ms 'patch' or 'staff'
500 ms 'flare'
Exclusion test: Complete the stem with a word that comes to mind but not any you just saw displayed.
Inclusion test: Complete the stem with one of the words flashed or, if unable to do so, with the first word that comes to mind.
Another way of testing for the subjective threshold – you exclude a word if you think you saw it.
500ms 50ms Baseline
Exclusion .10 .50 .36
Inclusion .96 .63 .38
For 50 ms words:
Any difference between inclusion and exclusion must be based on conscious perception:
Prob. of conscious perception = .13
500ms 50ms Baseline
Exclusion .10 .50 .36
Inclusion .96 .63 .38
Conscious perception would make exclusion performance BELOW baseline
At 500ms, exclusion is indeed below baseline
At 50ms, exclusion is ABOVE baseline, so there must have been unconscious perception
Inattentional blindness: Information can be below a subjective threshold when attention is focussed on another object
Mack and Rock 1998
Which arm of the cross is longer – horizontal or vertical?
60% subjects reported not seeing the word on the third trial
Of these “blind” subjects, 36% completed a word stem with the presented word (4% for control). Recognition also above chance.
Is the subjective threshold just a curiosity or theoretically interesting?
Need to establish qualitative differences between knowledge above and below the subjective threshold.
Merikle & Joordens (1997)Only two words used: Red/green.
“Red” or “green”
&&&&& (in red or green ink)
Task: Name colour of ink.75% of trials, prime and target incongruent (e.g. “red” followed by green ink) ; 25% of trials congruent
A conscious belief (e.g. “I am seeing the word RED”) can be combined with any other belief or desire to which it may be relevant in order to produce further beliefs or actions (in this case, to be prepared for green ink).
Unconscious knowledge cannot combine with just any other possibly relevant belief or desire to plan action.
=> Only conscious knowledge is inferentially promiscuous.
Naccache et al 2005
Patients undergoing brain surgery categorised masked and unmasked words as threatening or neutral
The three patients at chance in categorising the masked words
Electric field potentials recorded in the amygdala to threatening (red) and neutral (green) words. Blue line = significant difference
Both conscious and subliminal words lead to different amygdala activations in all three patients
What is the difference between conscious and unconscious perception at the level of wetware?
What process in the brain is correlated with conscious awareness?
What brain structure or process corresponds to having higher order thoughts?
Strategies using brain imaging, e.g. fMRI:
1. Compare conscious perception with no conscious perception when external stimulus is the same (binocular rivalry)
2. Compare conscious and unconscious perception of the same stimulus (conscious vs subliminal perception)
One eye presented with e.g. face, the other with e.g. a house
Both stimuli constantly presented
but one only sees one thing at a time - conscious percept alternates every few seconds
What brain activity correlates with the alternating conscious experience?
Leopold & Logothetis, 1996
Lumer & Rees (1999):
Conscious perception not just related to activity in specific visual areas like fusiform
also to prefrontal cortex which is involved in working memory and planning.
Strategy 2: compare brain activity between conscious and unconscious perception of the same stimulus
Dehaene et al 2001
fMRI words either at objective threshold or clearly visible:
Both conscious and unconscious words activated left fusiform area (to some degree);
conscious words led to more extensive brain activity, including the prefrontal cortex.
Need to equate objective performance between conscious and unconscious and only subjective experience differ
- otherwise performance confounded with consciousness
Two conditions: Visual discrimination task with same level of objective performance but different probability of thinking one saw the stimulus
Activation difference between conscious and unconscious now very specific: left Mid dorsolateral prefrontal cortex
‘HOT box’ responsible for creating accurate higher order thoughts?