AdvisorPeterson, Mary A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractSanguinetti and Peterson (2013) found that masked words (e.g., "telephone") followed by a semantically related familiar silhouette (e.g., a silhouette of a telephone) were more likely to be perceived than words followed by an unrelated or novel silhouette, even though the words appeared prior to the silhouettes. This indicates that semantically related items can produce recovery of, or "unmask," earlier masked items. Sanguinetti and Peterson (2012) interpret their result in a framework proposed by Di Lollo, Enns, & Rensink (2000) which specifies feedback processing to play a role in hypothesis confirmation. According to Di Lollo et al., feedback processing in the visual system constitutes an iterative-loop system, directed at verification of hypotheses about perceptual stimuli. Sanguinetti and Peterson propose that the familiar silhouettes are able to confirm the hypothesis in the visual system that a semantically related word is present, via reentrant processing. At least two alternative explanations are available for the results. One alternative is that the semantically related silhouettes simply allow for retrieval of the episode of previously seeing the words (which is forgotten upon mask presentation), rather than causally contributing to their phenomenal consciousness. Another alternative is that the semantically related silhouettes allow participants to consciously infer what the word had been from a degraded perception. In Experiment 1, we showed that an attended feature of the words (i.e., their font) is not unmasked along with the semantics of the words—unmasked words appear in no identifiable font. This is evidence against the episodic retrieval hypothesis and supports Sanguinetti & Peterson's original interpretation, since the font of the words would be a component of the original episode of seeing the words. In Experiments 2a and 2b, we show that conscious recognition of the objects in the silhouettes is insufficient for the unmasking effect—reduction in silhouette exposure duration reduces the unmasking effect (Experiment 2a) even though silhouettes are equally recognizable (Experiment 2b). This rules out the inference explanation for the unmasking effect, since on this explanation unmasking would depend on whether the silhouettes are recognized and can therefore be employed in conscious inference. Independent theoretical contributions of these findings are discussed.
Degree ProgramGraduate College