The mask who wasn't there

Does a visual mask need to be perceptually present to disrupt processing? In this research, we proposed to explore the link between perceptual and memory mechanisms by demonstrating that a typical sensory phenomenon (visual masking) can be replicated at a memory level. Experiment 1 highlighted an interference effect of a visual mask on the categorization of auditory targets and confirmed the multimodal nature of knowledge. In Experiment 2, we proposed to reactivate this mask in a categorization task on visual targets. Results showed that the sensory mask has disrupted (slower reaction times) the processing of the targets whether the mask was perceptually present or reactivated in memory. These results support a sensory-based conception of memory processing and suggest that the difference between perceptual processes and memory processes is characterized by the presence (perception) or the absence (memory) of the sensory properties involved in the activity.

Rey, A.E., Riou, B., Muller, D., Dabic, S., & Versace, R. (2015). The mask who wasn’t there: Visual masking effect with the perceptual absence of the mask. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 41, 567-573. (pdf)