Schofield A J, Georgeson M A, 1997, "Asymmetric masking: luminance gratings mask second-order gratings, but not vice versa" Perception 26 ECVP Abstract Supplement
Asymmetric masking: luminance gratings mask second-order gratings, but not vice versa
A J Schofield, M A Georgeson
Human vision can detect spatiotemporal information conveyed by first-order modulations of luminance and by second-order, non-Fourier modulations of image contrast. Models for second-order motion have suggested two filtering stages separated by a rectifying nonlinearity. We explore here the encoding of stationary first-order and second-order gratings, and their interaction.
Stimuli consisted of 2-D broad-band static visual noise sinusoidally modulated in luminance (first-order, LM) or contrast (second-order, CM). Modulation thresholds were measured in a two-interval forced-choice staircase procedure. With increasing noise contrast, first-order sensitivity decreased (owing to masking) but sensitivity to contrast modulation increased. Weak background gratings present in both intervals produced order-specific facilitation: LM background facilitated LM detection (the `dipper function') and CM facilitated CM detection. LM did not facilitate CM, nor vice versa, and this is strong evidence that LM and CM are detected via different mechanisms. Nevertheless, suprathreshold LM gratings masked CM detection, but not vice versa. High-amplitude CM masks had little or no effect on CM or LM detection. A broadly tuned divisive gain-control mechanism applied to the first-order filtering stage has been proposed by Foley (1994 Journal of the Optical Society of America A 11 1710 - 1719) to account for masking of luminance gratings, and this might also explain the masking of second-order by first-order stimuli. First-order maskers would drive down the effective contrast of the carrier, thus reducing second-order sensitivity. But for second-order maskers the mean contrast, and hence contrast gain, remained constant, independent of modulation depth. Thus second-order gratings would produce no masking effects, as observed.