Conscious awareness is necessary for affective faces to influence social judgments.

Document Type


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Center for outcomes Research and Evaluation, Maine Medical Center Research Institute

Journal Title

Journal of experimental social psychology

MeSH Headings

Judgment, Consciousness, Facial Expression


A growing body of research claims that stimuli presented outside conscious awareness can influence affect, speech perception, decision-making, eating behavior, and social judgments. However, research has shown that conscious awareness is a continuous phenomenon. Using a continuous flash suppression (CFS) paradigm to suppress awareness of affective faces (smiling and scowling), we demonstrate that some awareness of suppressed stimuli is required for the stimuli to influence social judgments. We discovered this using a rigorous within-participants psychophysics method that allowed us to assess awareness at very low levels, which is difficult using traditional methods. Our findings place boundary conditions on claims (made previously by us and others) that stimuli presented completely outside conscious awareness influence judgments. This work contributes to the literature highlighting the need to study conscious awareness as a continuous phenomenon and provides a framework for researchers to ask and answer questions regarding conscious awareness and its relation to judgment and behavior.



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