Relational Memory Is Evident in Eye Movement Behavior despite the Use of Subliminal Testing Methods

Nickel, Allison E.; Henke, Katharina; Hannula, Deborah E. (2015). Relational Memory Is Evident in Eye Movement Behavior despite the Use of Subliminal Testing Methods. PLoS ONE, 10(10), pp. 1-27. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0141677

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While it is generally agreed that perception can occur without awareness, there continues to be debate about the type of representational content that is accessible when awareness is minimized or eliminated. Most investigations that have addressed this issue evaluate access to well-learned representations. Far fewer studies have evaluated whether or not associations encountered just once prior to testing might also be accessed and influence behavior. Here, eye movements were used to examine whether or not memory for studied relationships is evident following the presentation of subliminal cues. Participants (assigned to experimental or control groups) studied scene-face pairs and test trials evaluated implicit and explicit memory for these pairs. Each test trial began with a subliminal scene cue, followed by three visible studied faces. For experimental group participants, one face was the studied associate of the scene (implicit test); for controls none were a match. Subsequently, the Display containing a match was presented to both groups, but now it was preceded by a visible scene cue (explicit test). Eye movements were recorded and recognition Memory responses were made. Participants in the experimental group looked disproportionately at matching faces on implicit test trials and participants from both groups looked disproportionately at matching faces on explicit test trials, even when that face had not been successfully identified as the associate. Critically, implicit memory-based viewing effects seemed not to depend on residual awareness of subliminal scenes cues, as subjective and objective measures indicated that scenes were successfully masked from view. The reported outcomes indicate that memory for studied relationships can be expressed in eye movement behavior without awareness.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Psychological and Behavioral Health
10 Strategic Research Centers > Center for Cognition, Learning and Memory (CCLM)

UniBE Contributor:

Henke, Katharina


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




Public Library of Science




Katharina Henke Westerholt

Date Deposited:

29 Jun 2016 16:01

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:57

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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