EFFECT OF THE CONTENT OF VISUALLY PRESENTED SUBLIMINAL STIMULATION ON SEMANTIC AND FIGURAL LEARNING TASK PERFORMANCE
Previous research on the nature of subliminal stimulation has revealed that the unconscious reception of environmental stimulation can influence several forms of overt behavior, including responses to projective techniques and self-ratings of subjective experience. A neglected aspect of subliminal perception was the effect of subliminal cues on the performance of learning tasks. Specifically, it was hypothesized that performance on a learning task could be either facilitated or inhibited and the nature of the effect would be dependent upon the content of the subliminal stimulus presented. A second variable which was considered important in this regard was the content of the learning task itself. It had been demonstrated in previous investigations that verbal learning tasks are processed primarily by the dominant hemisphere of the brain and that figural or spatial learning tasks are processed primarily by the non-dominant hemisphere. This asymmetrical information processing provided a basis for hypothesizing that certain stimuli, presented subliminally, would interact with the supraliminally presented learning tasks. The study was designed to test the following hypotheses: (1) Content of subliminal stimulation would have a significant effect on performance scores with subjects in facilitative conditions performing better than those in control conditions who perform better than those in inhibitory conditions. (2) An interaction between type of subliminal stimulus (semantic or figural) and type of supraliminal task (semantic or figural) would be found, since semantic subliminals were expected to differentially influence dominant hemisphere processing of supraliminal semantic material and figural subliminals were expected to differentially influence non-dominant hemisphere processing of supraliminal figural material. (3) Practice on the learning tasks would improve performance. Subjects were sixty college students who were presented with subliminal stimuli of varied content which were intended to affect learning task performance as previously hypothesized. Subliminal stimuli were visually presented with a slide projector at levels of luminance too low to be consciously perceived by the subjects. Supraliminal stimuli were presented in a paired associate learning task over a series of trials. Paired associate lists consisted of either semantic material composed of nonsense syllables or figural material composed of sixteen square matrices. The experimental design employed was a four factorial with repeated measures on one factor (content of subliminal stimulus x type of subliminal stimulus x type of supraliminal task x trials), data were analyzed using analysis of variance, and post hoc comparisons were done utilizing Duncan's multiple range test. Results supported only the third hypothesis and indicated performance improved with practice. While results were not in support of the critical hypotheses of the study, unexpectedly, one interaction was found to be significant. Interpretation of this interaction indicated that the subliminal effect on learning occurred only when the learning task required non-dominant hemisphere processing. Results revealed that the dominant hemisphere processing of semantic information is selectively immune to the effect of subliminal stimulation, while the possible site of subliminal information processing is the non-dominant hemisphere. Failure to confirm the directional hypotheses was explained in light of the non-dominant hemisphere and its role in subliminal information processing. Suggestions for further research focused on non-dominant hemisphere information processing, subliminal stimulation, and unconscious processes.
"EFFECT OF THE CONTENT OF VISUALLY PRESENTED SUBLIMINAL STIMULATION ON SEMANTIC AND FIGURAL LEARNING TASK PERFORMANCE"
(January 1, 1980).
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