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A new look at the relationship between perceptual and motor responses

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A visual stimulus may affect a motor response although its visibility is prevented by a mask. This implies that the sensorimotor system is more susceptible to stimulation than the perceptual system. We report data that are contrary to this intuition. Experiments where both the observer's perceptual state related to the presence/absence of a masked stimulus and the motor behaviour elicited by the same stimulus were jointly assessed on a trial-by-trial basis show that masked visual stimulation at constant visibility (d′) has two types of effect on the motor system. When the physical energy of the masked stimulus is weak, it affects the motor response only if it exceeds the observer's perceptual response criterion. It is only when the physical energy of the masked stimulus is relatively strong that its impact on the motor response is independent of the state of the perceptual system. This indicates that reflex, "nonconscious" behaviour has a high energy threshold.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Laboratoire de Psychologie Expérimentale, CNRS and René Descartes University, Boulogne-Billancourt, France, and Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Department of Psychology, Munich, Germany 2: Laboratoire de Psychologie Expérimentale, CNRS and René Descartes University, Boulogne-Billancourt, France

Publication date: 2004-11-01

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