The present research was aimed to reply and extend several recent findings showing qualitatively different behavioral effects produced by words perceived with vs. without awareness. Participants made a semantic categorization task on a target that was preceded by a prime word belonging either to the same (20% of trials) or to a different category (80%). The prime was always presented briefly and followed either immediately or after a delay by a pattern mask. In contrast to prior studies, the masking type varied randomly from trial to trial. For trials with an immediate mask (which avoided conscious identification of the prime), a significant facilitatory semantic priming was found. For trials with a delayed mask (on which participants were able to identify the prime), a significant “reversed” semantic priming was observed. The present findings provide further evidence that perceiving a stimulus with or without awareness can lead to qualitatively different behavioral consequences, which reflect the contribution of strategy-based (controlled) and automatic components, respectively.

Open Access