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Psychological investigations of unconscious perception

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This paper reviews the history of psychological investigations of unconscious perception and summarizes the current status of experimental research in this area of investigation. The research findings described in the paper illustrate how it is possible to distinguish experimentally between conscious and unconscious perception. The most successful experimental strategy has been to show that a stimulus can have qualitatively different consequences on cognitive and affective reactions depending on whether it was consciously or unconsciously perceived. In addition, recent studies of patients undergoing general anaesthesia have shown that the effects of stimuli perceived unconsciously during surgery can last for approximately 24 hours. Taken together, the results of these recent psychological investigations provide empirical support for the importance of unconsciously perceived information in determining cognitive and affective reactions.

Keywords: Awareness; affective reactions; anaesthesia; automatic reactions; conscious perception; introspective reports; perception without awareness; predictive strategies; qualitative differences; unconscious perception

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G1. Email:

Publication date: 1998-01-01

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