Previous research has demonstrated that barely visible (subliminal) goal-priming with motivational reward can alter the state of the motor system and enhance motor output. Research shows that these affective-motivational effects result from associations between goal representations and positive affect without conscious awareness. Here, we tested whether motivational priming can increase motor output even if the priming is fully visible (supraliminal), and whether the priming effect occurs through increased cortical excitability. Groups of participants were primed with either barely visible or fully visible words related to effort and control sequences of random letters that were each followed by fully visible positively reinforcing words. The priming effect was measured behaviourally by handgrip force and reaction time to the grip cue after the priming was complete. Physiologically, the effects were measured by pupil dilation and motor-evoked potentials (MEPs) in response to transcranial magnetic stimulation during the priming task. Analysis showed that for both the supraliminal and subliminal conditions, reaction time decreased and total force, MEP magnitude, and pupil dilation increased. None of the priming-induced changes in behaviour or physiology differed significantly between the supraliminal and the subliminal groups, indicating that implicit motivation towards motor goals might not require conscious perception of the goals.
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