PRIMING FROM NOVEL MASKED STIMULI DEPENDS ON TARGET SET SIZE
When objects denoted by target words are classified as belonging to a certain category (e.g., to be either small or large) responding is faster when the target word is preceded by a masked prime word belonging to the same rather than a different category. Recently, there has been some controversy on whether such masked priming effects are confined to primes that are practised as targets as well, or whether they transfer to other novel prime words. We report data which show that the transfer of unconscious priming to unpractised stimuli depends on the size of the target set. Priming does transfer to novel (unpractised) primes with a large target set (40 different target words), whereas no transfer to novel primes occurs with a small target set (4 different target words). We conclude that the size and structure of the target set crucially determine the way participants handle a task and thus, determine how unconscious stimuli are processed.
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