On the role of attention in generating explicit awareness of contingent relations: Evidence from spatial priming
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In a series of four experiments, we examine the hypothesis that selective attention is crucial for the generation of conscious knowledge of contingency information. We investigated this question using a spatial priming task in which participants were required to localize a target letter in a probe display. In Experiment 1, participants kept track of the frequency with which the predictive letter in the prime appeared in various locations. This manipulation had a negligible impact on contingency awareness. Subsequent experiments requiring participants to attend to features (color, location) of the predictive letter increased contingency awareness somewhat, but there remained a large proportion of individuals who remained unaware of the strong contingency. Together the results of our experiments suggest that the construct of attention does not fully capture the processes that lead to contingency awareness, and suggest a critical role for bottom-up feature integration in explicit contingency learning.
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