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Exogenous spatial precuing reliably modulates object processing but not object substitution masking

Pilling, Michael; Gellatly, Angus; Argyropoulos, Yiannis; Skarratt, Paul


Michael Pilling

Angus Gellatly

Yiannis Argyropoulos


Object substitution masking (OSM) is used in behavioral and imaging studies to investigate processes associated with the formation of a conscious percept. Reportedly, OSM occurs only when visual attention is diffusely spread over a search display or focused away from the target location. Indeed, the presumed role of spatial attention is central to theoretical accounts of OSM and of visual processing more generally (Di Lollo, Enns, & Rensink, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 129:481–507, 2000). We report a series of five experiments in which valid spatial precuing is shown to enhance the ability of participants to accurately report a target but, in most cases, without affecting OSM. In only one experiment (Experiment 5) was a significant effect of precuing observed on masking. This is in contrast to the reliable effect shown across all five experiments in which precuing improved overall performance. The results are convergent with recent findings from Argyropoulos, Gellatly, and Pilling (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 39:646–661, 2013), which show that OSM is independent of the number of distractor items in a display. Our results demonstrate that OSM can operate independently of focal attention. Previous claims of the strong interrelationship between OSM and spatial attention are likely to have arisen from ceiling or floor artifacts that restricted measurable performance.


Pilling, M., Gellatly, A., Argyropoulos, Y., & Skarratt, P. (2014). Exogenous spatial precuing reliably modulates object processing but not object substitution masking. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 76(6), 1560-1576.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date May 9, 2014
Publication Date 2014-08
Deposit Date May 5, 2016
Publicly Available Date May 5, 2016
Journal Attention, perception and psychophysics
Print ISSN 1943-3921
Electronic ISSN 1943-393X
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 76
Issue 6
Pages 1560-1576
Keywords 4 dot masking, Spatial attention, Cueing, Visual perception
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information The final publication is available at Springer via


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