Conscious and unconscious context-specific cognitive control

Nathalie Schouppe, Evelien de Ferrerre, Filip Van Opstal, Senne Braem, Wim Notebaert

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14 Citations (Scopus)


A key feature of the human cognitive system is its ability to deal with an ever-changing environment. One prototypical example is the observation that we adjust our information processing depending on the conflict-likelihood of a context (context-specific proportion congruency effect, CSPC, Crump etal., 2006). Recently, empirical studies started to question the role of consciousness in these strategic adaptation processes (for reviews, see Desender and Van den Bussche, 2012; Kunde etal., 2012). However, these studies have not yielded unequivocal results (e.g., Kunde, 2003; Heinemann etal., 2009; Van Gaal etal., 2010a; Desender etal., 2013; Reuss etal., 2014). In the present study, we aim at replicating the experiment of Heinemann etal. (2009) in which the proportion of congruent and incongruent trials between different contexts was varied in a masked priming task. Their results showed a reduction of the congruency effect for the context with more incongruent trials. However, this CSPC effect was only observed when the prime-target conflict was conscious, rather than unconscious, suggesting that context-specific control operates within the boundaries of awareness. Our replication attempt however contrasts these findings. In the first experiment we found no evidence for a CSPC effect in reaction times (RTs), neither in the conscious nor in the unconscious condition. The error rate analysis did show a CSPC effect, albeit not one modulated by consciousness. In the second experiment we found an overall CSPC effect in RTs, independent of consciousness. The error rates did not display a CSPC pattern. These mixed results seem to nuance the findings of Heinemann etal. (2009) and highlight the need for replication studies in psychology research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)539-539
Number of pages1
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Journal Article


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