Direct evidence of cognitive control without perceptual awareness

Brenda Ocampo*, Shahd Al-Janabi, Matthew Finkbeiner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


A central question within the domain of human cognition is whether or not the ability to replace a current action with a new one (i.e., cognitive control) depends on a conscious appreciation of the environmental change that necessitates the new behavior. Specifically, it is not yet known if non-consciously perceived stimuli can trigger the modification of a currently ongoing action. We show for the first time that individuals are able to use non-consciously perceived information to modify the course and outcome of an ongoing action. Participants were presented with a masked (i.e., subliminal) ‘stop’ or ‘go-on’ prime stimulus whilst performing a routine reach-to-touch action. Despite being invisible to participants, the stop primes produced more hesitations mid-flight and more movement reversals than the go-on primes. This new evidence directly establishes that cognitive control (i.e., the ability to modify a currently ongoing action) does not depend on a conscious appreciation of the environmental trigger.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1083-1088
Number of pages6
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2015


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