Preconscious analysis of global structure: Evidence from masked priming

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According to the global precedence hypothesis, the perceptual processing of complex objects proceeds from global structure to the analysis of local elements. In the present study, we used a masked priming paradigm to explore whether the global or the local level of hierarchical letters is analysed at preconscious processing stages. Experiment 1 found masked priming only after global prime letters in focused-attention conditions. Experiment 2 used a divided-attention task in which attention was not focused specifically on either level of hierarchy and did not find any priming. Experiment 3 used otherwise the same task as Experiment 2 but biased attention either to the global or the local level by manipulating the probability that targets appeared at one level. Priming was found after global prime letters in the global-bias condition but not in the local-bias condition. Experiments 4a and 4b suggest that the size of the local letters was not responsible for the lack of priming after local primes. The results suggest a priority for global processing already at a preconscious level and that attentional factors may modulate processes at this level.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of Psychology, University of Turku, Finland 2: Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience and Department of Philosophy, University of Turku, Finland

Publication date: January 1, 2004

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