Our visual system can process information at both conscious and unconscious levels. Understanding the factors that control whether a stimulus reaches our awareness, and the fate of those stimuli that remain at an unconscious level, are the major challenges of brain science in the new millennium. Since its publication in 1984, Visual Masking has established itself as a classic text in the field of cognitive psychology. In the years since, there have been considerable advances in the cognitive neurosciences, and a (...) growth of interest in the topic of consciousness, and the time is ripe for a new edition of this text. Where most current approaches to the study of visual consciousness adopt a 'steady-state' view, the approach presented in this book explores its dynamic properties. This new edition uses the technique of visual masking to explore temporal aspects of conscious and unconscious processes down to a resolution in the millisecond range. The 'time slices' through conscious and unconscious vision revealed by the visual masking technique can shed light on both normal and abnormal operations in the brain. The main focus of this book is on the microgenesis of visual form and pattern perception - microgenesis referring to the processes occurring in the visual system from the time of stimulus presentation on the retinae to the time, a few hundred milliseconds later, of its registration at conscious or unconscious perceptual and behavioural levels. The book takes a highly integrative approach by presenting microgenesis within a broad context encompassing visuo-temporal phenomena, attention, and consciousness. (shrink)
Using a metacontrast masking paradigm, prior studies have shown that a target’s color information and form information, can be processed without awareness and that unconscious color processing occurs at early, wavelength-dependent levels in the cortical information processing hierarchy. Here we used a combination of paracontrast and metacontrast masking techniques to explore unconscious color and form priming effects produced by blue, green, and neutral stimuli. We found that color priming in normal observers is significantly reduced when an additional paracontrast mask precedes (...) the target at optimal masking SOAs. However, no reduction of form-priming effects was obtained at similar optimal paracontrast SOAs. We conclude that unconscious color priming depends on an early, wavelength- or stimulus-dependent response of color neurons located at early cortical levels whereas unconscious form priming occurs at later levels. (shrink)
Visual stimuli as well as transcranial magnetic stimulation can be used: to suppress the visibility of a target and to recover the visibility of a target that has been suppressed by another mask. Both types of stimulation thus provide useful methods for studying the microgenesis of object perception. We first review evidence of similarities between the processes by which a TMS mask and a visual mask can either suppress the visibility of targets or recover such suppressed visibility. However, we then (...) also point out a significant difference that has important implications for the study of the time course of unconscious and conscious visual information processing and for theoretical accounts of the processes involved. We present evidence and arguments showing: that visual masking techniques, by revealing more detailed aspects of target masking and target recovery, support a theoretical approach to visual masking and visual perception that must take into account activities in two separate neural channels or processing streams and, as a corollary, that at the current stage of methodological sophistication visual masks, by acting in more highly specifiable ways on these pathways, provide information about the microgenesis of form perception not available with TMS masks. (shrink)
Susan Pockett presents sound arguments supporting her reinterpretations of data that Libet and co-workers used to support a number of intriguing and influential conclusions regarding the microgenesis and timing of conscious sensory experience and volitionally controlled motor responses. The following analysis, extending and elaborating some of her main arguments, proposes that Libet's experimental methodologies and rationales, and thus also his interpretation of data, are flawed and that neglect or ignorance of methodological and empirical constraints well known to sensory psychologists risks (...) drawing premature or faulty conclusions about the timing of conscious experience. (shrink)
A modified flanker task was used to assess the effects of spatial attention during conscious and nonconscious processing. In line with prior findings, we demonstrated that increasing spatial separation between flankers and probes diminished the differences between reaction times to the incongruent and congruent probe–flanker pairs. This trend occurred even when the identity of flankers was suppressed from awareness by a metacontrast mask, indicating that spatial attention can be allocated to information processed at the nonconscious, in addition to the conscious, (...) levels, that effects of spatial attention at these two levels can be equivalent, and that attention deployed at the nonconscious level of processing can be characterized by a spatial gradient that is nearly identical to that found at the conscious level of processing. (shrink)
We examined the updating of decisions made during visuo-motor processing when two sequentially presented stimuli, Prime1 and Prime2, primed discriminative responses to a following probe. In Experiment 1, the visibility of the two primes was suppressed or left intact by varying the stimulus onset asynchrony of the stimuli immediately following them. In Experiment 2, the visibility of Prime2 was suppressed or left intact by varying its spatial separation from the following probe. We found that Prime2 dominated the effects of Prime1; (...) that Prime2’s updating was stronger when the Prime2–probe SOA was 200 as compared to 53 ms; and that Prime2’s updating was weaker when the Prime2–probe spatial separation was 58 as compared to 0 minarc. We conclude that these effects are due to an interaction of spatial attention and the state of processing of Prime2. (shrink)
Visual control of our actions can be unconscious as well as conscious. The book explores unconscious and conscious vision, investigated using psychophysical and brain-recording methods. The book sheds new light on and advances experimental, philosophical, and scholarly research on visual consciousness.