Peeling Plaids Apart: Context Counteracts Cross-Orientation Contrast Masking

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Freeman, E. D. ; Verghese, P. (2009)
  • Publisher: PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE
  • Journal: PLoS ONE, volume 4, issue 12 (issn: 1932-6203, eissn: 1932-6203)
  • Related identifiers: pmc: PMC2780729, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0008123
  • Subject: Neuroscience/Experimental Psychology | Q | R | Research Article | BF | Neuroscience/Sensory Systems | Science | Medicine | Neuroscience/Cognitive Neuroscience
    mesheuropmc: genetic structures

Background\ud 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 components.\ud \ud Methodology & Principal Findings\ud 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, having the same orientation and phase of either the test or mask grating. Both such masking and ‘unmasking’ effects were much stronger for moving than static stimuli.\ud \ud Conclusions & Significance\ud 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 organization influences contrast encoding, determining whether the contrast of a grating may be recovered independently from that of its mask.
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