Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Associative and Repetition Priming with the Repeated Masked Prime Technique: No Priming Found

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Associative and Repetition Priming with the Repeated Masked Prime Technique: No Priming Found

Article excerpt

Wentura and Frings (2005) reported evidence of subliminal categorical priming on a lexical decision task, using a new method of visual masking in which the prime string consisted of the prime word flanked by random consonants and random letter masks alternated with the prime string on successive refresh cycles. We investigated associative and repetition priming on lexical decision, using the same method of visual masking. Three experiments failed to show any evidence of associative priming, (1) when the prime string was fixed at 10 characters (three to six flanking letters) and (2) when the number of flanking letters were reduced or absent. In all cases, prime detection was at chance level. Strong associative priming was observed with visible unmasked primes, but the addition of flanking letters restricted priming even though prime detection was still high. With repetition priming, no priming effects were found with the repeated masked technique, and prime detection was poor but just above chance levels. We conclude that with repeated masked primes, there is effective visual masking but that associative priming and repetition priming do not occur with experiment-unique prime-target pairs. Explanations for this apparent discrepancy across priming paradigms are discussed. The priming stimuli and prime-target pairs used in this study may be downloaded as supplemental materials from mc.psychonomic-journals.org/content/supplemental.

Priming studies in which the lexical decision task has been used have repeatedly shown that presenting an associated prime word before a target word (e.g., bread-butter) facilitates processing of the target, relative to conditions in which the target is preceded by an unrelated prime (e.g., Becker & Killion, 1977; Davelaar & Coltheart, 1975; de Groot, 1983; Meyer & Schvaneveldt, 1971; for reviews, see McNamara, 2005; Neely, 1991). Priming has also been observed when the relationship between a prime and a target was purely semantic, such as category-exemplar priming (e.g., Fischler, 1977; Neely, 1977; Perea & Rosa, 2002; Seidenberg, Waters, Sanders, & Langer, 1984; for reviews, see Hutchison, 2003; Lucas, 2000). Associative priming can be observed when the stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) varies from relatively long durations of 1 sec or so down to very short values of 200 msec (e.g., Henik, Friedrich, Tzelgov, & Tramer, 1994; Smith, Bentin, & Spalek, 2001), suggesting that at least some contributing processes are extremely rapid, possibly automatic. However, associative priming can be modulated by varying task parameters such as the relatedness proportion, the proportion of word targets preceded by related primes. Increasing the relatedness proportion tends to increase priming only at longer SOAs (300 msec or greater), suggesting that strategic processes may be involved (e.g., de Groot, 1984; den Heyer, Briand, & Dannenbring, 1983; Henik et al., 1994; Hutchison, Neely, & Johnson, 2001; Pecher, Zeelenberg, & Raaijmakers, 2002; but see Bodner & Masson, 2003, for an exception).

Another technique used to limit strategic processing is masked priming, in which prime visibility-and, in the limit, participants' awareness of primes-is reduced by visual masking. Eliminating awareness of the prime also negates any contribution of episodic memory to priming. Typically, in masked priming studies, the prime is presented briefly (50-60 msec), preceded by a visual mask consisting of repeated characters such as hash marks (####) and followed immediately by the target, so that SOA corresponds to prime duration. Repetition priming is readily observed with this kind of presentation (Forster & Davis, 1984; Forster, Mohan, & Hector, 2003). Semantic or associative priming effects are less easy to detect with masked priming, and the strength of priming tends to increase with prime duration (de Groot, 1983; Perea & Gotor, 1997; Perea & Rosa, 2002; Rastle, Davis, Marslen-Wilson, & Tyler, 2000). …

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