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Perceptual awareness and categorical representation of faces: Evidence from masked priming.

How internal categories influence how we perceive the world is a fundamental question in cognitive sciences. Yet, the relation between perceptual awareness and perceptual categorization has remained largely uncovered so far. Here, we addressed this question by focusing on face perception during subliminal and conscious perception. We used morphed continua between two face identities and we assessed, through a masked priming paradigm, the perceptual processing of these morphed faces under subliminal and supraliminal conditions. We found that priming from subliminal faces followed linearly the information present in the primes, while priming from visible faces revealed a non-linear profile, indicating a categorical processing of face identities. Our results thus point to a special relation between perceptual awareness and categorical processing of faces, and support the dissociation between two modes of information processing: a subliminal mode involving analog treatment of stimuli information, and a supraliminal mode relying on discrete representation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2011 APA, all rights reserved)