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Cognition. 2007 Jul;104(1):135-49. Epub 2006 Jul 21.

Attention attenuates metacontrast masking.

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Department of Psychology MS-25, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005, USA.


The influence of attention on perceptual awareness was examined using metacontrast masking. Attention was manipulated with endogenous cues to assess the effects on the temporal and spatial parameters of target visibility. Experiment 1 examined the time course of effective masking when the target and mask set were presented at an attended vs. an unattended location. The valid allocation of attention decreased the magnitude of the masking effect (i.e. increased visibility) for approximately 80 ms. Furthermore, even with spatial displacements of the target and mask and center-to-center separations of 1.5 degrees or 2.7 degrees of visual angle (Experiment 2), target visibility was increased when attention was validly allocated. These results indicate that attention influences low-level visual processes to enhance visual awareness.

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