Searching for a target in a salient region should be easier than looking for one in a nonsalient region. However, we previously discovered a contradictory phenomenon in which a local target in a salient structure was more difficult to find than one in the background. The salient structure was constructed of orientation singletons aligned to each other to form a collinear structure. In the present study, we undertake to determine whether such a masking effect was a result of salience competition between a global structure and the local target. In the first 3 experiments, we increased the salience value of the local target with the hope of adding to its competitive advantage and eventually eliminating the masking effect; nevertheless, the masking effect persisted. In an additional 2 experiments, we reduced salience of the global collinear structure by altering the orientation of the background bars and the masking effect still emerged. Our salience manipulations were validated by a controlled condition in which the global structure was grouped noncollinearly. In this case, local target salience increase (e.g., onset) or global distractor salience reduction (e.g., randomized flanking orientations) effectively removed the facilitation effect of the noncollinear structure. Our data suggest that salience competition is unlikely to explain the collinear masking effect, and other mechanisms such as contour integration, border formation, or the crowding effect may be prospective candidates for further investigation.
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