How color, regularity, and good Gestalt determine backward masking

Bilge Sayim, M. Manassi, Michael H Herzog

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The strength of visual backward masking depends on the stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) between target and mask. Recently, it was shown that the conjoint spatial layout of target and mask is as crucial as SOA. Particularly,
masking strength depends on whether target and mask group with each other. The same is true in crowdingwhere the global spatial layout of the flankers and targetflanker grouping determine crowding strength. Here, we presented a vernier target followed by different flanker configurations at varying SOAs. Similar to crowding, masking of a red vernier target was strongly reduced for
arrays of 10 green compared with 10 red flanking lines. Unlike crowding, single green lines flanking the red vernier showed strong masking. Irregularly arranged
flanking lines yielded stronger masking than did regularly arranged lines, again similar to crowding. While cuboid flankers reduced crowding compared with single lines, this was not the case in masking. We propose that, first, masking is reduced when the flankers are part of a larger spatial structure. Second, spatial factors counteract color differences between the target and the flankers. Third,
complex Gestalts, such as cuboids, seem to need longer processing times to show ungrouping effects as observed in crowding. Strong parallels between masking and crowding suggest similar underlying mechanism; however, temporal factors in masking additionally modulate performance, acting as an additional grouping cue.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number7
Early online date18 Jun 2014
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014

Bibliographical note

We thank Marc Repnow for technical support. This work was supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) project ‘‘Basics of visual processing: what crowds in crowding?’’. Bilge Sayim is currently funded by a Pegasus Marie Curie fellowship by the FWO.


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