A model for visual masking based on the notion of interaction of the specific and nonspecific afferent visual systems is presented. Discussion is focused on nonmonotonic masking functions. In particular, it is proposed that in order for visual information (patterns, forms, etc.) to be consciously perceived, both specific retina-genicula-striate impulses and nonspecific retina-reticulacortical impulses should converge in the same cortical space. Nonspecific activity is shown to be necessary for subjective awareness. This activity is shown to be of longer latency than specific activity. It is concluded that trailing conscious-experience-generating impulses are elicited by collateral activity from the specific information received from thefirst stimulus. These impulses reach the cortex at the same moment as the specific activity of thesecond (masking) stimulus as coded, which has a relatively higher signal-to-noise ratio in the given retinotopically specified cortical space. Consequently, subjects consciously perceive the second stimulus. This operation of awareness generation is termedperceptual retouch and is considered as a special psychological mechanism worthy of psychophysical study.
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Bachmann, T. The process of perceptual retouch: Nonspecific afferent activation dynamics in explaining visual masking. Perception & Psychophysics 35, 69–84 (1984). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03205926