Psychological Research

, Volume 79, Issue 5, pp 801–812 | Cite as

Masked priming of complex movements: perceptual and motor processes in unconscious action perception

  • Iris Güldenpenning
  • Jelena F. Braun
  • Daniel Machlitt
  • Thomas Schack
Original Article


Fast motor actions in sports often require the ability to discriminate between similar movement patterns (e.g. feint vs. non-feint) at an early stage. Moreover, an athlete might even initiate a motor response without a conscious processing of the relevant movement information. Therefore, the question was raised of whether or not athletes and novices of a particular movement can unconsciously distinguish between similar movement patterns. Using a masked priming experiment (Experiment 1), it is demonstrated that both groups were similarly able to unconsciously distinguish a feint and a non-feint action. To further investigate whether this result is based on perceptual priming effects or on unconscious motor activations, a second masked priming experiment was conducted (Experiment 2). Experiment 2 revealed perceptual priming effects which are not mediated by motor expertise. Moreover, unconscious pictures of feint and non-feint actions from different movement stages are sufficient to activate a motor response in athletes. In novices, a negative congruency effect occurred. For both groups, largest response congruency effects were found for prime pictures participants could consciously perceive as target pictures during the experimental session. The results found here point out that perceptual priming effects are not mediated by motor expertise whereas response priming effects might be.


Congruency Effect Incongruent Condition Temporal Distance Negative Priming Effect Target Picture 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors thank Marius Grote, Pawel Stusek und Alisa Berger for help with the acquisition of data. This study was supported by German Research Foundation Grant DFG EXC 277 ‘Cognitive Interaction Technology’ (CITEC) (


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Iris Güldenpenning
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jelena F. Braun
    • 1
  • Daniel Machlitt
    • 1
  • Thomas Schack
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Neurocognition and Action - Biomechanics - Research Group, Faculty of Psychology and Sport ScienceBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany
  2. 2.Center of Excellence - Cognitive Interaction TechnologyBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany
  3. 3.Research Institute for Cognition and Robotics (CoR-Lab)Bielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany

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