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)
In the target article Nijhawan speculates that visual perceptual mechanisms compensate for neural delays so that moving objects may be perceived closer to their physical locations. However, the vast majority of published psychophysical data are inconsistent with this speculation.