Psychophysical and physiological evidence suggests that luminance patterns are independently analysed in "channels" responding to different bands of spatial frequency. There are, however, interactions among stimuli falling well outside the usual estimates of channels' bandwidths (Henning, Hertz, and Broadbent, (1975). Vision Res., 15, 887-899). We examined whether the masking results of Henning et al. are consistent with independent channels. We postulated, before the channels, a point non-linearity which would introduce distortion products that might produce the observed interactions between stimuli two octaves apart in spatial frequency.
Standard 2-AFC masking experiments determined whether possible distortion products of a 4.185 c/deg masking sinusoid revealed their presence through effects on the detection of a sinusoidal signal at the frequency of the second harmonic of the masker-8.37 c/deg. The signal and masker were horizontally orientated and the signal was in-phase, out-of-phase, or in quadrature with the putative second-order distortion product of the masker. Significant interactions between signal and masker were observed: for a wide range of masker contrasts, signal detection was facilitated by the masking stimulus. However, the shapes of the functions relating detection performance to masker contrast, as well as the effects of relative phase, were inconsistent with the notion that distortion products were responsible for the interactions observed.