Mask-induced priming and the negative compatibility effect.

Research paper by Petroc P Sumner

Indexed on: 01 May '08Published on: 01 May '08Published in: Experimental psychology


Under certain conditions, masked primes have produced counter-intuitive negative compatibility effects (NCE), such that RT is increased, not decreased, when the target is similar to the prime. This NCE has been interpreted as an index of automatic motor inhibition, triggered to suppress the partial motor activation caused by the prime. An alternative explanation is that perceptual interactions between prime and mask produce positive priming in the opposite direction to the prime, explaining the NCE without postulating inhibition. Here the potential role of this "mask-induced priming" was investigated in two experiments, using masks composed of random lines. Experiment 1 compared masks that included features of the primes and targets with masks that did not. The former should create more mask-induced priming, but the NCE did not differ between masks. Experiment 2 employed masks that contained features of either one target or the other, but not both. These asymmetric masks produced significant mask-induced priming, but it was insufficient in size to account for the prime-related NCE. Thus mask composition can contribute to NCEs, but when random line masks are employed, the major source of the NCE seems to be motor-inhibition.