Process dissociations versus task dissociations: a controversy in progress

Eyal M. Reingold and Jeffrey P. Toth


Much of the long-standing controversial status of the study of unconscious processing revolves around the lack of a general consensus as to what constitutes an adequate operational definition of conscious awareness (see Dixon 1971, 1981; Erdelyi 1985, 1986; Eriksen 1960; Holender 1986; Reingold and Merikle 1988, 1990). An attempt to review definitional issues relevant to the measurement of awareness is quick to reveal a very curious discrepancy between the prominence of the debate of such issues in the context of the study of perception without awareness, and the absence of such discussions in the study of unconscious, or implicit memory. Referring to debates concerning criteria for establishing perception without awareness, Schacter ( 1987, p. 511) suggested that 'memory researchers would do well to attempt to incorporate some of the lessons from these investigations into research on implicit memory'. Until recently, discussions of definitional criteria relevant to the measurement of awareness remained scarce despite numerous studies exploring dissociations between implicit/indirect and explicit/direct measures of memory.

Following the introduction of the process-dissociation approach ( Jacoby 1991; Jacobyet al. 1993b), there has been a surge of interest in issues pertaining to the relationship between memory and awareness. Much of this newly found interest centres on criticisms of various aspects of the process-dissociation paradigm. This scrutiny is perhaps to be expected given that the process-dissociation approach represents a novel approach both to the measurement of conscious control, and to the study of conscious and unconscious influences on behaviour. However, whereas some authors attempt to provide a thorough and balanced review of the assumptions made within the framework of the process-dissociation approach (henceforth PDA) and the assumptions made by the taskdissociation approach (henceforth TDA) (e.g. Roediger and McDermott 1993), other critiques of the PDA tend to be rather selective and biased (e.g. Graf and Komatsu 1994). The reader of such critiques may be led to


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Implicit Cognition


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