The types of stimuli used as targets and masks considerably change the masking functions in a way that requires us to abandon any single mechanism of masking as the sole explanation of backward masking. In the first of two reports in which the problem of the mask-dependence of masking is addressed, we explore the role of the relative spatial positioning of targets and masks in order to differentiate between local interaction and attentional models. If single letters were masked by double-letter masks then the relative spatial arrangement of the letters, which was changed in order to vary the involvement of metacontrast-like processes, had an effect at shorter SOAs, but not at longer SOAs where strong masking still persisted. This poses difficulties for proposing local contour interaction as the main mechanism of masking. Similarly, crowding effects alone cannot explain the results. Backward masking also involves attention being directed to working-memory processing of the succeeding object while abandoning the preceding object.