To efficiently use its finite resources, the visual system selects for further processing only a subset of the rich sensory information. Visual masking and spatial attention control the information transfer from visual sensory-memory to visual short-term memory. There is still a debate whether these two processes operate independently or interact, with empirical evidence supporting both arguments. However, recent studies pointed out that earlier studies showing significant interactions between common-onset masking and attention suffered from ceiling and/or floor effects. Our review of previous studies reporting metacontrast-attention interactions revealed similar artifacts. Therefore, we investigated metacontrast-attention interactions by using an experimental paradigm, in which ceiling/floor effects were avoided. We also examined whether metacontrast masking is differently influenced by endogenous and exogenous attention. We analyzed mean absolute-magnitude of response-errors and their statistical distribution. When targets are masked, our results support the hypothesis that manipulations of the levels of metacontrast and of endogenous/exogenous attention have largely independent effects. Moreover, statistical modeling of the distribution of response-errors suggests weak interactions modulating the probability of “guessing” behavior for some observers in both types of attention. Nevertheless, our data suggest that any joint effect of attention and metacontrast can be adequately explained by their independent and additive contributions.
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