Sumner P, 2006, "Attentional modulation of sensorimotor processes in the absence of perceptual awareness" Perception 35 ECVP Abstract Supplement
Attentional modulation of sensorimotor processes in the absence of perceptual awareness
Attention is generally considered to be inextricably linked with conscious awareness, but recent evidence suggests that attention can modulate the effects of stimuli that remain invisible. Presumably, attention brings subthreshold perceptual representations closer to conscious 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. In support of this idea, it was found that attentional cueing can modulate the behavioural response to invisible stimuli in a way that is distinct from enhancing their visibility. A masked-prime paradigm that produces negative or positive priming depending on the perceptual strength (duration) of the prime was employed. Attention was found to enhance both negative and positive priming, and also increase the likelihood of detecting the prime (ie boosting perceptual strength). Crucially, the pattern of attentional influence on priming could not be explained by the attentional modulation of the prime's perceptual strength, but was predicted by a direct attentional influence on the non-conscious priming process itself. Therefore, in addition to regulating what we perceive, attention seems to influence our behaviour through sensorimotor processes that are not involved in conscious awareness.
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