Unconscious processing of body actions primes subsequent action perception but not motor execution

Sonia Mele, Alan D A Mattiassi, Cosimo Urgesi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies have shown that viewing body actions primes not only the visual perception of congruent versus incongruent actions, but also their motor execution. Here, we used a masked-priming paradigm to explore whether visuoperceptual and visuomotor action priming may also occur when the prime is not consciously perceived. In 5 experiments, healthy individuals were presented with masked implied-action primes and were then prompted to perceive congruent or incongruent implied-action stimuli or to execute congruent or incongruent finger movements. Results showed that implied-action primes affected subsequent action perception also when they were not consciously perceived. Unconscious visuoperceptual action priming effects were independent from spatial compatibility and reflected genuine action representation. Conversely, masked implied-action primes affected motor preparation and execution processes only when they were consciously perceived. The results provide evidence of unconscious visuoperceptual but not visuomotor action priming effects, suggesting that unconscious processing of actions affects perceptual, but not motor representations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1940-1962
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Automatic imitation
  • Masked priming
  • Motor resonance
  • Stimulus response compatibility
  • Unconscious processing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine(all)


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