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The role of spatial layout

in visual masking
Isabel Dombrowe, Frouke Hermens, Michael H. Herzog
Laboratory of Psychophysics, Brain Mind Institute, Ecole Polytechnique Fédéral de Lausanne, Switzerland

Introduction
The visibility of a briefly presented target stimulus can be strongly reduced by the presentation of a
subsequent masking stimulus. It is generally assumed that the strength of masking is determined
by the mask’s s energy, i.e. the product of its luminance and duration. Accordingly, a high energy
mask should produce strong masking and a low energy mask should produce weak masking.
Contrary to this assumption, we show that decreasing the energy of a mask deteriorates performance.
Therefore, the mask energy has no clear predictive influence on the masking strength. Our results
indicate that the spatial layout of the mask has a higher impact on masking than the energy of
the mask.

Experiment 1: Methods Experiment 2: Methods


(a) (b)
(a) (b)
20 ms 20 ms
20 ms 20 ms

ISI ISI ISI ISI

20 ms 20 ms
20 ms 20 ms

Experiment 1: Results Experiment 2: Results

100 100
90 90
threshold (arc sec)

threshold (arc sec)

80 80
70
70
60
60
50

40 (a)
50
(b)
40
30 (a)
20
(b) 30

20
10
10
0
-20 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 0
-20 0 20 40 60 80 100 120
SOA (ms)
SOA (ms)

Mask energy does not affect the masking strength when


Decreasing the mask energy increases masking strength
the masks have the same overall shape (SOA=ISI+20ms).
when the mask shapes are different (SOA=ISI+20ms).

Conclusion
Masking strength depends on mask layout rather than mask energy.

http://lpsy.epfl.ch/ Corresponding author: idombrow@uni-osnabrueck.de