Individual differences in metacontrast masking are enhanced by perceptual learning

Consciousness and Cognition 19 (2):656-666 (2010)
Abstract
In vision research metacontrast masking is a widely used technique to reduce the visibility of a stimulus. Typically, studies attempt to reveal general principles that apply to a large majority of participants and tend to omit possible individual differences. The neural plasticity of the visual system, however, entails the potential capability for individual differences in the way observers perform perceptual tasks. We report a case of perceptual learning in a metacontrast masking task that leads to the enhancement of two types of adult human observers despite identical learning conditions. In a priming task both types of observers exhibited the same priming effects, which were insensitive to learning. Findings suggest that visual processing of target stimuli in the metacontrast masking task is based on neural levels with sufficient plasticity to enable the development of two types of observers, which do not contribute to processing of target stimuli in the priming task
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