Object substitution masking (OSM) is used in behavioral and imaging studies to investigate processes associated with the formation of a conscious percept. Reportedly, OSM occurs only when visual attention is diffusely spread over a search display or focused away from the target location. Indeed, the presumed role of spatial attention is central to theoretical accounts of OSM and of visual processing more generally (Di Lollo, Enns, & Rensink, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 129:481-507, 2000). We report a series of five experiments in which valid spatial precuing is shown to enhance the ability of participants to accurately report a target but, in most cases, without affecting OSM. In only one experiment (Experiment 5) was a significant effect of precuing observed on masking. This is in contrast to the reliable effect shown across all five experiments in which precuing improved overall performance. The results are convergent with recent findings from Argyropoulos, Gellatly, and Pilling (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 39:646-661, 2013), which show that OSM is independent of the number of distractor items in a display. Our results demonstrate that OSM can operate independently of focal attention. Previous claims of the strong interrelationship between OSM and spatial attention are likely to have arisen from ceiling or floor artifacts that restricted measurable performance.
Pilling, MArgyropoulos, IGellatly, ASkarratt, P
Faculty of Health and Life Sciences\Department of Biological and Medical Sciences
Year of publication: 2014Date of RADAR deposit: 2015-12-22