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Journal of the Optical Society of America

Journal of the Optical Society of America

  • Vol. 55, Iss. 5 — May. 1, 1965
  • pp: 541–559

Temporal and Spatial Visual Masking. I. Masking by Impulse Flashes

GEORGE SPERLING  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA, Vol. 55, Issue 5, pp. 541-559 (1965)

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Masking is defined as the change in threshold energy eT*(τ) of a test stimulus T induced by a masking stimulus M of energy eM as a function of the relative time τ of occurrence. Masking is maximum when T and M occur simultaneously. A slight decrease in threshold for tests preceding the masking impulse by about 0.1 sec was explained as an alteration in appearance of the subsequent masking flash by a "subthreshold" test flash. Impulse-contrast threshold eT*/eM was investigated for masking impulses M of seven different energies superimposed on five backgrounds B. The increases in test threshold caused by M and by B were found to be independent and a modified Weber’s law (adjusted contrast threshold Cδ*≍0.1) held approximately. This conclusion was supported in a supplementary investigation of Cδ* using a category-rating-scale method.

Impulse masking results were applied to predicting the masking peak at the onset of a long flash by treating the first 60 msec as an impulse. The lowering of thresholds of tests delayed in a long masking flash implied other detection mechanisms (e.g., temporal resolution). Theoretical predictions accounted for 94% and 97% of the variance in two relevant experiments, correctly predicting the effect of masking-flash duration and of background intensity.

In both steady and intermittent light, masking is attributed primarily to fast processes (time constant «1 sec) which presumably have a neural rather than a photochemical basis.

GEORGE SPERLING, "Temporal and Spatial Visual Masking. I. Masking by Impulse Flashes," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 55, 541-559 (1965)

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  30. The test stimulus in this and subsequent experiments, though small, definitely is not a point source. As spatial position is not varied and as there are no boundaries near the test, it is probable that the observed test-threshold changes are quite similar (though not exactly equivalent) to those that would have been observed with a point test. Preliminary observations support this assumption.
  31. The pre-adaptation field used in Exp. 2 is larger than the one used in Exp. 1, but as both are substantially larger than the test, their masking effect is similar (see for example, Battersby et al.2).
  32. In an earlier investigation of chromatic interactions in masking, Bush17 failed to note a similar second peak. However, his masking stimulus (560 msec) and test (40 msec) were orders of magnitude longer than those used here.
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  46. No assumption is made about the time τ at which max eT*(τ) occurs.
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  56. H. D. Baker, J. Opt. Soc. Am. 45, 839 (1955), p. 843.
  57. See Ref. 14, p. 284; also Ref. 1, p. 758.

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