Drawing attention to primes increases inhibitory word priming effects.
Inhibitory masked priming effects in the lexical decision task (LDT) have been proven difficult to replicate. If these difficulties are due to individual differences in attention, introducing minor fluctuations in the temporal parameters of prime-target presentation should increase priming effects by drawing attention to the prime. The current study presents two experiments in which we manipulated the duration of prime presentation to this effect. In Experiment 1, we presented subjects (n = 224) with an LDT using form-related and -unrelated word primes. Subjects were assigned to a condition in which all primes were presented for 48ms, or a condition in which one-fourth of the primes were presented for 64ms. Inhibitory priming effects emerged only for the mixed duration condition. Experiment 2 repeated the procedures of the first experiment but with nonword primes. Because nonword primes have no lexical information, target item response latencies should not suffer from the additional processing time required to suppress those representations. Thus, as predicted, Experiment 2 yielded a facilitatory effect of priming. Together, these experiments show that small manipulations of the prime SOA can increase attention to the temporal location of the prime, and that when attention is drawn to the existence of primes in this manner, inhibitory word priming can be observed.
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