Attention, awareness of contingencies, and control in spatial localization: A qualitative difference approach.
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The qualitative difference method for distinguishing between aware and unaware processes was applied here to a spatial priming task. Participants were asked simply to locate a target stimulus that appeared in one of four locations, and this target stimulus was preceded by a prime in one of the same four locations. The prime location predicted the location of the target with high probability (p = .75), but prime and target mismatched on a task-relevant feature (identity, color). Across 5 experiments, we observed repetition costs in the absence of awareness of the contingency, and repetition benefits in the presence of awareness of the contingency. These results were particularly clear-cut in Experiment 4, in which awareness was defined by reference to self-reported strategy use. Finally, Experiment 5 showed that frequency-based implicit learning effects were present in our experiments but that these implicit learning effects were not strong enough to override repetition costs that pushed performance in the opposite direction. The results of these experiments constitute a novel application of the qualitative difference method to the study of awareness, learning of contingencies, and strategic control.
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