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Journal of the Optical Society of America

  • Vol. 70, Iss. 12 — Dec. 1, 1980
  • pp: 1458–1471

Contrast masking in human vision

Gordon E. Legge and John M. Foley  »View Author Affiliations

JOSA, Vol. 70, Issue 12, pp. 1458-1471 (1980)

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Contrast masking was studied psychophysically. A two-alternative forced-choice procedure was used to measure contrast thresholds for 2.0 cpd sine-wave gratings in the presence of masking sine-wave gratings. Thresholds were measured for 11 masker contrasts spanning three log units, and seven masker frequencies ranging ± one octave from the signal frequency. Corresponding measurements were made for gratings with horizontal widths of 0.75° (narrow fields) and 6.0° (wide fields). For high contrast maskers at all frequencies, signal thresholds were related to masking contrast by power functions with exponents near 0.6. For a range of low masking contrasts, signal thresholds were reduced by the masker. For the wide fields, high contrast masking tuning functions peaked at the signal frequency, were slightly asymmetric, and had approximately invariant half maximum frequencies that lie 3/4 octave below and 1 octave above the signal frequency. The corresponding low contrast tuning functions exhibited peak threshold reduction at the signal frequency, with half-minimum frequencies at roughly ± 0.25 octaves. For the narrow fields, the masking tuning functions were much broader at both low and high masking contrasts. A masking model is presented that encompasses contrast detection, discrimination, and masking phenomena. Central constructs of the model include a linear spatial frequency filter, a nonlinear transducer, and a process of spatial pooling that acts at low contrasts only.

© 1980 Optical Society of America

Gordon E. Legge and John M. Foley, "Contrast masking in human vision," J. Opt. Soc. Am. 70, 1458-1471 (1980)

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  63. C. F. Stromeyer, III has pointed out an interesting property of the contrast discrimination data of Fig. 6. If the narrow field data points are moved downward by a factor of 2 and to the left by a factor of 2, they are very nearly superimposed upon the wide field data. This result means that contrast sensitivity for the narrow field stimuli is a factor of 2 lower than contrast sensitivity for the wide field stimuli.
  64. If the sampling density is doubled, center-symmetric detectors will be included that are located at zero crossings of the signal. Since these detectors will be insensitive to the signal, they will add only noise, resulting in a small reduction in the improvement of sensitivity due to spatial pooling. The effect upon the masking model is to elevate slightly its predictions for wide field masking at low contrasts [Fig. 6, dashed curve, and Fig. 10(a)]. Refinement of the masking model to include signal-dependent noise and/or odd-symmetric receptive fields would reduce such sampling effects.
  65. If spatial pooling and spectral effects are ignored, a logarithmic transducer results in Weber's law for discrimination, and masking tuning functions that match the shape of the linear filter function. If the nonlinearity is a power function with exponent n, the properties of masking will depend on the value of n. (i) For 0 < n < 1, there is threshold elevation and the masking tuning functions are broader than the filter function. (ii) For n = 1, signal thresholds are unaffected by the masker. (iii) For 1 < n < 2, masking produces facilitation, but the tuning functions are broader than the filter function. (iv) For n > 2, masking produces facilitation and the tuning functions are narrower than the filter function.
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