Variations in backward masking with different masking stimuli: II. The effects of spatially quantised masks in the light of local contour interaction, interchannel inhibition, perceptual retouch, and substitution theories
In part I we showed that with spatially non-overlapping targets and masks both local metacontrast-like interactions and attentional processes are involved in backward masking. In this second part we extend the strategy of varying the contents of masks to pattern masking where targets and masks overlap in space, in order to compare different masking theories. Images of human faces were backward-masked by three types of spatially quantised masks (the same faces as targets, faces different from targets, and Gaussian noise with power spectra typical for faces). Configural characteristics, rather than the spectral content of the mask, predicted the extent of masking at relatively long stimulus onset asynchronies (SOAs). This poses difficulties for the theory of transient-on-sustained inhibition as the principal mechanism of masking and also for local contour interaction being a decisive factor in pattern masking. The scale of quantisation had no effect on the masking capacity of noise masks and a strong effect on the capacity of different-face masks. Also, the decrease of configural masking with an increase in the coarseness of the quantisation of the mask highlights ambiguities inherent in the re-entrance-based substitution theory of masking. Different masking theories cannot solve the problems of masking separately They should be combined in order to create a complex, yet comprehensible mode of interaction for the different mechanisms involved in visual backward masking.