Visual masking can be employed to manipulate observers' awareness of critical stimuli in studies of masked priming. This paper discusses two different lines of attack for establishing unconscious cognition in such experiments. Firstly, simple dissociations between direct measures (D) of visual awareness and indirect measures (I) of processing per se occur when I has some nonzero value while D is at chance level; the traditional requirement of zero awareness is necessary for this criterion only. In contrast, double dissociations occur when some experimental manipulation has opposite effects on I and D, for instance, increasing priming effects despite decreasing prime identification performance (Schmidt & Vorberg, 2006). Double dissociations require much weaker measurement assumptions than other criteria. An attractive alternative to this dissociation approach would be to use tasks that are known to violate necessary conditions of visual awareness altogether. In particular, it is argued here that priming effects in speeded pointing movements (Schmidt, Niehaus, & Nagel, 2006) occur in the absence of the recurrent processing that is often assumed to be a necessary condition for awareness (for instance, DiLollo, Enns, & Rensink, 2000; Lamme & Roelfsema, 2000). Feedforward tasks such as this might thus be used to measure the time-course of unconscious processing directly, before intracortical feedback and awareness come into play.
Schmidt, T. (2007). Measuring unconscious cognition: Beyond the zero-awareness criterion. Advances in Cognitive Psychology, 3(1–2), 275–287. https://doi.org/10.2478/v10053-008-0030-3