Peeling plaids apart: Context counteracts cross-orientation contrast masking

Freeman, E. D. & Verghese, P. (2010). Peeling plaids apart: Context counteracts cross-orientation contrast masking. Perception, 39(2), p. 275.

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Contrast discrimination for an image is usually harder if another image is superimposed on top. We asked whether such contrast masking may be enhanced or relieved depending on cues promoting integration of both images as a single pattern, versus segmentation into two independent compo- nents. Contrast-discrimination thresholds for a foveal test grating were sharply elevated in the presence of a perfectly overlapping orthogonally oriented mask grating. However, thresholds returned to the unmasked baseline when a surround grating was added with the same orientation and phase as either the test or mask grating. Both such masking and `unmasking' effects were much stronger for moving than for static stimuli. Our results suggest that common-fate motion reinforces the perception of a single coherent plaid pattern, while the surround helps to identify each component independently, thus peeling the plaid apart again. These results challenge current models of early vision, suggesting that higher-level surface organisation influences contrast encoding, determining whether the contrast of a grating may be recovered independently from that of its mask.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright Sage 2010
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: School of Social Sciences > Department of Psychology

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