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Keywords:

  • Automatic processes;
  • Unconscious cognition;
  • Feature-based attention;
  • Response priming;
  • Attentional control;
  • Unconscious perception;
  • Shape and color;
  • Visuomotor priming

Abstract

According to classical theories, automatic processes operate independently of attention. Recent evidence, however, shows that masked visuomotor priming, an example of an automatic process, depends on attention to visual form versus semantics. In a continuation of this approach, we probed feature-specific attention within the perceptual domain and tested in two event-related potential (ERP) studies whether masked visuomotor priming in a shape decision task specifically depends on attentional sensitization of visual pathways for shape in contrast to color. Prior to the masked priming procedure, a shape or a color decision task served to induce corresponding task sets. ERP analyses revealed visuomotor priming effects over the occipitoparietal scalp only after the shape, but not after the color induction task. Thus, top-down control coordinates automatic processing streams in congruency with higher-level goals even at a fine-grained level.