Low spatial frequencies are suppressively masked across spatial scale, orientation, field position, and eye of origin

Timothy S. Meese*, Robert F. Hess

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Masking is said to occur when a mask stimulus interferes with the visibility of a target (test) stimulus. One widely held view of this process supposes interactions between mask and test mechanisms (cross-channel masking), and explicit models (e.g., J. M. Foley, 1994) have proposed that the interactions are inhibitory. Unlike a within-channel model, where masking involves the combination of mask and test stimulus within a single mechanism, this cross-channel inhibitory model predicts that the mask should attenuate the perceived contrast of a test stimulus. Another possibility is that masking is due to an increase in noise, in which case, perception of contrast should be unaffected once the signal exceeds detection threshold. We use circular patches and annuli of sine-wave grating in contrast detection and contrast matching experiments to test these hypotheses and investigate interactions across spatial frequency, orientation, field position, and eye of origin. In both types of experiments we found substantial effects of masking that can occur over a factor of 3 in spatial frequency, 45° in orientation, across different field positions and between different eyes. We found the effects to be greatest at the lowest test spatial frequency we used (0.46 c/deg), and when the mask and test differed in all four dimensions simultaneously. This is surprising in light of previous work where it was concluded that suppression from the surround was strictly monocular (C. Chubb, G. Sperling, & J. A. Solomon, 1989). The results confirm that above detection threshold, cross-channel masking involves contrast suppression and not (purely) mask-induced noise. We conclude that cross-channel masking can be a powerful phenomenon, particularly at low test spatial frequencies and when mask and test are presented to different eyes. © 2004 ARVO.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)843-859
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2004

Bibliographical note

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives License


  • dichoptic masking
  • human vision
  • interocular suppression
  • lateral interactions
  • multiplicative noise


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