DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2017.001267

Acta Psychologica Sinica (心理学报) 2017/49:10 PP.1267-1276

Is color words identification really not needed in attentional resources? Evidence from the Stroop paradigm

According to the classical theories of automaticity, automatic processing is considered entirely stimulus-triggered and independent of top-down control of attention. Automatic processes elicited by unconscious stimuli are not needed in capacity-limited attentional resources. Furthermore, the classical theories highlight the inflexibility of the cognitive system. Namely, conscious information processes would be massively influenced by various unconscious processes. Such inflexibility would require for much conscious control as intended actions could only be ensured by inhibiting numerous interfering response tendencies. In contrast to these classical conceptions, Kiefer and Martens (2010) recently developed an attentional sensitization model of unconscious cognition, which allows for more flexibility and adaptability of automatic processing or unconscious cognitive processing, and the cognitive system has to be configured by attention and task sets in order for automatic processes to occur.
Research on unconscious perception has long been known, but the controversies about researching methods and theoretical interpretations in empirical findings have not been resolved. However, in the past few years, it has become increasingly apparent that factors such as attention allocation, intentions, and task sets do influence on the processes that underlie unconscious perception. Kiefer and Martens (2010) argue that higher level task representations configuring the cognitive system in a way of task-congruent processing streams. In view of the above theoretically different opinions, this research aims to extend the findings of attentional sensitization theory that unconscious semantic stimulus processing is dependent not only on the activation of a semantic processing, but also on the extent to which participants assign attention to specific semantic stimulus dimensions and features.
In the present research, the Stroop task paradigm was used because the Stroop paradigm was the most robust findings in attentional research that the time to name a color was lengthened markedly in the presence of an irrelevant word, and the Stroop effect was considered the hallmark of automatic processing. The Stroop paradigm would be appropriate to verify the unconscious processing. In three experiments, we used color words, homonyms of color words and color semantic associative words as priming words, and employed several stringent measures to prevent participants from attending to the irrelevant words, including the priming words' semantics and physical colors separated from time and space; Each words were outside the focus of spatial attention and their visibility were decreased so as to discuss whether the automatic processing was constrained by attentional resources, and whether the participants obtained different amount of attentional resources could make a difference in automated processing.
The results showed that:(1) Automatic processes are heavily dependent on the attentional resources, and the automated processes were terminated when the color words could not obtain the attentional resources. (2) The amount of available attentional resources regulated the efficiency and effectiveness of automatic processing, the more attentional resources obtained, the larger significant semantic priming effects to the target stimulus. The results supported the hypothesis of attentional sensitization model that automatic processes were susceptible to top-down control by the higher level cognitive system.

Key words:automatic processes,attentional resource,color words,Stroop priming effect

ReleaseDate:2017-11-17 09:47:12

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