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The article reports 4 experiments that explore the notion of recognition without awareness using words as the material. Previous work by Voss and associates has shown that complex visual patterns were correctly selected as targets in a 2-alternative forced-choice (2-AFC) recognition test although participants reported that they were guessing. The present experiments sought to extend this earlier work by having participants study words in different ways and then attempt to recognize the words later in a series of 4-alternative forced-choice (4-AFC) tests, some of which contained no target word. The data of interest are cases in which a target was present and participants stated that they were guessing, yet chose the correct item. This value was greater than p = .25 in all conditions of the 4 experiments, demonstrating the phenomenon of recognition without awareness. Whereas Voss and colleagues attributed their findings with kaleidoscope patterns to enhanced processing fluency of perceptual attributes, the main factor associated with different levels of recognition without awareness in the present studies was a variable criterion for the subjective state accompanying selection of the “guess” option, depending on the overall difficulty of the recognition test. We conclude by discussing some implications of the results for the distinction between implicit and explicit memory.

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