Schlaghecken, F. & Eimer, M. (1997). The influence of subliminally presented primes on response preparation. Sprache & Kognition, 16, 166-175.
In a RT study the influence of masked primes on behavioural performance was investigated under different presentation conditions. Masked primes were presented prior to target stimuli. Primes were either identical to the target (compatible trials), or identical to a target mapped to the opposite response (incompatible trials). Mask target SOA was varied in steps of 32 ms, ranging from 0 ms to 128 ms. Additionally, stimuli were presented either at fixation or peripherally. Results suggest that primes that are not consciously perceived nevertheless trigger a response preparation that is later inhibited: With short mask-target SOAs as well as with peripheral primes, RTs were slower in incompatible than on compatible trials. With longer SOAs and central primes, the reversed pattern of results was obtained. It is argued that the effects of masked primes on motor activation reflect the activity of a visuomotor control system that utilises stimulus information independent of conscious perception in order to prepare the appropriate response.