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Volume 11 Issue 2 (2015)

Invisible Stimuli, Implicit Thresholds: Why Invisibility Judgments Cannot be Interpreted in Isolation original article

pp. 31-41 | First published on 30 June 2015 | DOI:10.5709/acp-0169-3

Thomas Schmidt


Some studies of unconscious cognition rely on judgments of participants stating that they have “not seen” the critical stimulus (e.g., in a masked-priming experiment). Trials in which participants gave invisibility judgments are then treated as those where the critical stimulus was “subliminal” or “unconscious,” as opposed to trials with higher visibility ratings. Sometimes, only these trials are further analyzed, for instance, for unconscious priming effects. Here I argue that this practice requires implicit assumptions about subjective measures of awareness incompatible with basic models of categorization under uncertainty (e.g., modern signal-detection and threshold theories). Most importantly, it ignores the potential effects of response bias. Instead of taking invisibility judgments literally, they would better be employed in parametric experiments where stimulus visibility is manipulated systematically, not accidentally. This would allow studying qualitative and double dissociations between measures of awareness and of stimulus processing per se.

Keywords: visibility judgments, psychophysics, thresholds, signal detection, statistical artifact

Is Semantic Processing During Sentence Reading Autonomous or Controlled? Evidence from the N400 Component in a Dual Task Paradigm original article

pp. 42-55 | First published on 30 June 2015 | DOI:10.5709/acp-0170-2

Annette Hohlfeld, Manuel Martín-Loeches, Werner Sommer


The present study contributes to the discussion on the automaticity of semantic processing. Whereas most previous research investigated semantic processing at word level, the present study addressed semantic processing during sentence reading. A dual task paradigm was combined with the recording of event-related brain potentials. Previous research at word level processing reported different patterns of interference with the N400 by additional tasks: attenuation of amplitude or delay of latency. In the present study, we presented Spanish sentences that were semantically correct or contained a semantic violation in a critical word. At different intervals preceding the critical word a tone was presented that required a high-priority choice response. At short intervals/high temporal overlap between the tasks mean amplitude of the N400 was reduced relative to long intervals/low temporal overlap, but there were no shifts of peak latency. We propose that processing at sentence level exerts a protective effect against the additional task. This is in accord with the attentional sensitization model (Kiefer & Martens, 2010), which suggests that semantic processing is an automatic process that can be enhanced by the currently activated task set. The present experimental sentences also induced a P600, which is taken as an index of integrative processing. Additional task effects are comparable to those in the N400 time window and are briefly discussed.

Keywords: N400, dual task, semantic processing, reading, automaticity, P600

Expertise, Working Memory and Articulatory Suppression Effect: Their Relation with Simultaneous Interpreting Performance original article

pp. 56-63 | First published on 30 June 2015 | DOI:10.5709/acp-0171-1

Irene Injoque-Ricle, Juan Pablo Barreyro, Jesica Formoso, Virginia I. Jaichenco


Simultaneous interpreting is a complex bilingual verbal activity that involves the auditory perception of an oral communication and the production of a coherent discourse. One of the cognitive functions underlying simultaneous interpreting is working memory. The aim of this work was to study the relationship between expertise, working memory capacity and articulatory suppression effect, and the ability to perform simultaneous interpreting. For this purpose, four working memory tasks and one simultaneous interpreting task were administered to thirty Spanish-speaking professional English interpreters. Results showed that simultaneous interpreting ability might be supported by the working memory´s capacity to store or process information, but also by the ability of the interpreter to cope with the articulatory suppression effect. We conclude that interpreters may have or develop resources to support the effect caused by articulatory suppression.

Keywords: working memory, articulatory suppression, simultaneous interpreting