Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Common-onset visual masking (COVM) occurs when a mask and a target have common onset but delayed offset, with the mask persisting beyond the duration of the target [Di Lollo, V., Enns, J. T., & Rensink, R. A. Competition for consciousness among visual events: The psychophysics of reentrant visual events. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 129, 481–507, 2000]. We report the first behavioral and electrophysiological evidence of COVM in infants. An initial behavioral study included a familiarization phase during which a visual pattern (the target) surrounded by four black dots (the mask) was flashed 15 times to the infant. In the “unmasked” condition, the mask disappeared with the target. In the “masked” condition, the mask remained on the screen after deletion of the target for a further 93 msec. During the test phase, the familiar target pattern was paired with a new pattern. Infants in the unmasked condition showed a significant familiarity preference, suggesting that they had encoded the target during familiarization, whereas those in the masked condition showed no preference, suggesting that they had not encoded the target during familiarization. In the second experiment, high-density event-related potentials were used to investigate the electrophysiological pattern of activity that accompanies COVM. Six-month-old infants viewed both masked and unmasked conditions. Electrophysiological data indicated that over posterior channels the masked condition elicited a larger amplitude positive wave around 300 msec after stimulus onset than trials in the unmasked condition.