Mahar D P, Mackenzie B D, 1993, "Masking, information integration, and tactile pattern perception: A comparison of the isolation and integration hypotheses" Perception 22(4) 483 – 496
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Masking, information integration, and tactile pattern perception: A comparison of the isolation and integration hypotheses
Douglas P Mahar, Brian D Mackenzie
Received 1 June 1992
Abstract. Two competing models of the effects of pattern element proximity, masking, and perceptual integration on the discriminability of spatiotemporal vibrotactile patterns are compared. Kirman's 'integration hypothesis' predicts that pattern perception is facilitated by a process of perceptual integration which requires that pattern elements be presented in close spatial and temporal proximity. Conversely, the 'isolation hypothesis' predicts that the strong masking effects which occur when pattern elements are presented in close proximity impede the perception of patterns. Traditional masking studies do not provide a fair test of these two hypotheses because they rely on methods that measure the subject's ability to identify the target when the target is presented in conjunction with the mask, rather than the discriminability of the complex percept resulting from the integration of the target and mask. To account for this, a new procedure was devised where the amount of interelement masking and the discriminability of the pattern as a whole were measured independently as the spatial and temporal separation of the pattern elements were varied. As expected under both hypotheses, masking between pattern elements increased as either the spatial or the temporal separation between them was decreased. The pattern discrimination data also support the isolation hypothesis in that the patterns were discriminated less well with increasing temporal element separation with a similar but nonsignificant trend in the case of spatial separation. It is concluded that this new methodology should be applied to a wider range of tactile pattern processing situations in order to assess the generality of the results obtained.
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