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Early visual processing allows for selective behavior, shifts of attention, and conscious visual experience in spite of masking

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  • Sébastien M. Crouzet, Universite de Toulouse, CNRS UMR 5549
  • ,
  • Lyudmyla Y. Kovalenko, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
  • ,
  • Simon Hviid del Pin
  • Morten Overgaard
  • Niko A. Busch, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Object-substitution masking (OSM) occurs when a briefly displayed target in a search array is surrounded by a mask, which remains onscreen after the target has disappeared. It has been suggested that OSM results from a specific interference with reentrant visual processing, while the initial feedforward processing is left intact. Here, we tested the prediction that the fastest saccadic responses towards a masked target, supposedly triggered before the onset of reentrant processing, are not impaired by OSM. Indeed, saccades faster than 350 ms “escaped” the influence of the mask. Notably, participants’ judgements of subjective awareness indicated that stimulus processing during this early stage is not entirely devoid of conscious awareness. Furthermore, the N2pc event-related potential component indicated shifts of spatial attention towards the masked targets on trials with correct fast saccades, suggesting that both target detection and spatial attention can be based on the computations accomplished during the initial feedforward sweep.

Original languageEnglish
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Pages (from-to)89-100
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017

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