The Role of Attention in Perceptual and Conceptual Priming

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The aim of this study aim was to explore the role of attention in nonverbal perceptual implicit memory (priming) and verbal perceptual and conceptual tests, comparing with equivalent tests of explicit memory. We hypothesized that perceptual priming would be immune to the effects of divided attention during retrieval, while conceptual priming and explicit tasks would be vulnerable to these effects. Three experiments tested this hypothesis in a divided-attention condition in the retrieval phase. Experiment 1 used a picture-fragment completion task and a tone judgment task; Experiment 2 used a word-stem completion task; and Experiment 3 used a category-exemplar production task. Experiments 2 and 3 used a secondary task in which a sequence of consonants was judged as same or different. Implicit memory was affected by divided attention in the picture-fragment completion task and the category-exemplar production task. The word-stem completion task was immune to the effects of divided attention. The explicit tests were affected in the 3 experiments. Together, these results indicate that, under some circumstances, perceptual implicit memory demands attentional resources during retrieval. Conceptual implicit memory, on the other hand, always requires attentional resources, as has been previously shown in the literature.

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