No difference between conscious and nonconscious visuomotor control: Evidence from perceptual learning in the masked prime task

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Negative compatibility effects (NCEs) in the masked-prime paradigm are usually obtained when primes are masked effectively. With ineffective masks—and primes above the perceptual threshold—positive compatibility effects (PCEs) occur. We investigated whether this pattern reflects a causal relationship between conscious awareness and low-level motor control, or whether it reflects the fact that both are affected in the same way by changes in physical stimulus attributes. In a 5-session perceptual learning task, participants learned to consciously identify masked primes. However, they showed unaltered NCEs that were not different from those produced by participants in a control group without equivalent perceptual learning. A control experiment demonstrated that no NCEs occur when prime identification is made possible by ineffective masking. The results suggest that perceptual awareness and low-level motor control are affected by the same factors, but are fundamentally independent of each other.

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