Comparing unconscious processing during continuous flash suppression and meta-contrast masking just under the limen of consciousness

Ziv Peremen, Dominique Lamy*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Stimuli can be rendered invisible using a variety of methods and the method selected to demonstrate unconscious processing in a given study often appears to be arbitrary. Here, we compared unconscious processing under continuous flash suppression (CFS) and meta-contrast masking, using similar stimuli, tasks and measures. Participants were presented with a prime arrow followed by a target arrow. They made a speeded response to the target arrow direction and then reported on the prime's visibility. Perception of the prime was made liminal using either meta-contrast masking (Experiment 1) or CFS (Experiments 2 and 3). Conscious perception of the prime was assessed using a sensitive visibility scale ranging from 0 to 3 and unconscious processing was measured as the priming effect on target discrimination performance of primetarget direction congruency when prime visibility was null. Crucially, in order to ensure that the critical stimuli were equally distant from the limen of consciousness, we sought stimulus and temporal parameters for which the proportion of 0-visibility trials was comparable for the two methods. We found that the method used to prevent conscious perception matters: unconscious processing was substantial with meta-contrast masking but absent with CFS. These findings suggest that CFS allows very little perceptual processing, if at all, and that previous reports of high-level and complex unconscious processing during CFS may result from partial awareness.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 969
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberAUG
StatePublished - 2014


  • Awareness
  • Conscious perception
  • Consciousness
  • Continuous flash suppression
  • Meta-contrast masking
  • Response priming
  • Subliminal processing
  • Unconscious perception


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