Three experiments tested how the physical format and information content of forward and backward masks affected the extent of visual pattern masking. This involved using different types of forward and backward masks with target discrimination measured by percentage correct in the first experiment (with a fixed target duration) and by an adaptive threshold procedure in the last two. The rationale behind the manipulation of the content of the masks stemmed from masking theories emphasizing attentional and/or conceptual factors rather than visual ones. Experiment 1 used word masks and showed that masking was reduced (a masking reduction effect) when the forward and backward masks were the same word (although in different case) compared to when the masks were different words. Experiment 2 tested the extent to which a reduction in masking might occur due to the physical similarity between the forward and backward masks by comparing the effect of the same content of the masks in the same versus different case. The result showed a significant reduction in masking for same content masks but no significant effect of case. The last experiment examined whether the reduction in masking effect would be observed with nonword masks-that is, having no high-level representation. No reduction in masking was found from same compared to different nonword masks (Experiment 3). These results support the view that the conscious perception of a rapidly displayed target stimulus is in part determined by high-level perceptual/cognitive factors concerned with masking stimulus grouping and attention.