No Evidence for Unconscious Reward Priming Effects on Performance
Lier, H. van
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Research shows that people boost effort to obtain rewards. When determining which rewards to pursue, people analyze the expected values of these rewards. Previous research has shown that by doing these analyses frequently, it can become an automatized process where initial cues can boost performance outside of awareness, via unconscious processes. However, there have been a lot of critiques on the way that awareness has been measured in previous research. These critiques depend on fundamental methodological problems within the classic method of signal detection. In this study, we want to exclude the issue of people being aware or not by creating an experiment on trial level where people can earn a monetary reward depending on their performance. Next to the conscious (optimal) and unconscious (suboptimal) trial, we added a baseline trial where people were not exposed to a monetary reward. We focus on the response times of the ‘SL/OH’ suboptimal trials compared to the ‘SL/OX’ baseline trial, and therefore ruling out the possibility of people being aware of the monetary reward. Although we replicated previous measure methods and it made us find the classic effect of reward priming on behavior initially, when using a sufficient detection and comparing the ‘SL/OH’ suboptimal trials with the ‘SL/OX’ baseline trials there has not been found an effect of reward priming on behavior. Results indicated that priming had no effect on the response times compared to the baseline trial, meaning that a direct effect of reward primes on behavior has not been found.