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Lateral masking in cycling displays: the relative importance of separation, flanker duration and inter-stimulus interval.

A central bar repeatedly presented in alternation with two flanking bars can lead to the disappearance of the central bar. Recently it has been suggested that this masking effect could be explained by object-mediated updating: the information from the central bar is integrated into the representation of the flankers, leading not only to the disappearance of the central bar as a separate object, but also to the perception of the flankers in apparent motion between their real position and the position of the central bar. This account suggests that the visibility of the central bar should depend on the same factors as those that influence the con- struction and maintenance of object representations. Therefore separation between central bar and flankers should not influence visibility as long as the time interval between them is adequate to make an interpretation of the scene in terms of one object moving from one location to the other possible location. We found that if the time interval between the central bar and the flankers is neither too short nor too long, the central bar becomes invisible even at large separations. These findings are inconsistent with traditional accounts of the cycling lateral masking displays in terms of local inhibitory mechanisms.