The topic of unconscious influences on behaviour has long been explored as a means of understanding human performance and the neurobiological correlates of intention, motivation, and action. However, what is relatively unknown is whether subconsciously delivered priming stimuli, with or without rewards, can affect individuals' maximum level of force produced with their best effort. We demonstrated using transcranial magnetic stimulation that barely visible priming of an action concept, when combined with a reward in the form of a consciously visible positive stimulus, could alter the state of the motor system. In accordance with this neurophysiological alteration, the prime-plus-reward stimuli significantly increased the hand-grip force level of maximum voluntary contraction with little conscious awareness. This is the first objective evidence that the barely conscious presence of a behavioral goal can influence the state of the motor system and arouse latent ability for human force exertion.
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