The masked semantic priming effect is task dependent

reconsidering the automatic spreading activation process

Bianca De Wit*, Sachiko Kinoshita

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    21 Citations (Scopus)


    Semantic priming effects are popularly explained in terms of an automatic spreading activation process, according to which the activation of a node in a semantic network spreads automatically to interconnected nodes, preactivating a semantically related word. It is expected from this account that semantic priming effects should be routinely observed when the prime identity is veiled from conscious awareness, but the extant literature on masked semantic priming effects is notoriously mixed. The authors use the same prime-target pairs in the lexical decision task and the semantic categorization task and show that although masking the prime eliminates the semantic priming effect in lexical decision, reliable semantic priming effects are observed with both masked and unmasked primes in the semantic categorization task. The authors explain this task dependence in terms of their account of semantic priming effects based on notions of evidence accumulation and source confusion and support their account by means of reaction time distribution analyses.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1062-1075
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2015

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