Supraliminal but not subliminal distracters bias working memory recall.
Wildegger T., Myers NE., Humphreys G., Nobre AC.
Information of which observers are not consciously aware can nevertheless influence perceptual processes. Whether subliminal information might exert an influence on working memory (WM) representations is less clear, and relatively few studies have examined the interactions between subliminal and supraliminal information in WM. We present 3 experiments examining this issue. Experiments 1a and b replicated the finding that orientation stimuli can influence behavior subliminally in a visuomotor priming task. Experiments 2 and 3 used the same orientation stimuli, but participants had to remember a target orientation and report it back by adjusting a probe orientation after a memory delay. Before or after presentation of the target orientation, a subliminal or supraliminal distracter orientation was presented that was either irrelevant for task completion and never had to be reported (Experiment 2), or was relevant for task completion because it had to be reported on some trials (Experiment 3). In both experiments, presentation of a supraliminal distracter influenced WM recall of the target orientation. When the distracter was presented subliminally, however, there was no bias in orientation recall. These results suggest that information stored in WM is protected from influences of subliminal stimuli, while online information processing is modulated by subliminal information.