Conscious awareness is required for the perceptual discrimination of threatening animal stimuli: A visual masking and continuous flash suppression study

Emma J. Cox, Irene Sperandio, Robin Laycock, Philippe A. Chouinard

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We investigated if the subliminal processing of threatening animal (snakes and spiders) and neutral object (cars and houses) stimuli can influence the discrimination of a subsequent visible stimulus. The prime and target pair were either identical, of the same category but with different physical features, or different in category and physical features. In two experiments, participants discriminated the basic level category (e.g. snake vs. spider) of a visible target stimulus that had been preceded by a visible or perceptually invisible prime stimulus. One experiment used visual masking to render prime stimuli perceptually invisible and the other used continuous flash suppression (CFS). Priming effects were demonstrated in both experiments when the prime was visible but not when the prime was rendered perceptually invisible. These findings demonstrate that conscious awareness could be required in the perceptual discrimination of threatening animal and neutral object images at their specific basic level category.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-292
Number of pages13
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Early online date25 Sep 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Visual masking
  • Continuous flash suppression (CFS)
  • Priming
  • Conscious awareness
  • Threat stimuli

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