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Visual masking can result from the interference of perceptual signals. According to the principle of functional specialization, interference should be greatest when signal and mask belong to the same visual attribute (e.g., color or motion) and least when they belong to different ones. We provide evidence to support this view and show that the time course of masking is visual attribute specific. First, we show that a color target is masked most effectively by color (homogeneous target-mask pair) and least effectively by motion (heterogeneous pair) and vice versa for a motion target. Second, we show that the time at which the mask is most effective depends strongly on the target-mask pairing. Heterogeneous masking is strongest when the mask is presented before the target (forward masking) but this is not true of homogeneous masking. This finding supports a delayed cross-feature interaction due to segregated processing sites. Third, lengthening the stimulus onset asynchrony between target and mask leads to a faster improvement in color than in motion detectability, lending support for a faster color processing system and consistent with reports of perceptual asynchrony in vision. In summary, we present three lines of psychophysical evidence, all of which support a segregated neural coding scheme for color and motion in the human brain.

Original publication




Journal article


Vis Neurosci

Publication Date





445 - 451


Adult, Attention, Color Perception, Female, Humans, Male, Motion Perception, Perceptual Masking, Photic Stimulation, Psychophysics, Reaction Time, Time Factors