Increment thresholds for small test flashes measured on superimposed backgrounds sometimes differed depending on whether an observer was instructed to keep the background subjectively visible or (Troxler) faded. The magnitude and direction of the threshold change varied among observers. For some observers, the magnitude of the effect of such instructions also varied with background size, psychophysical method, and displacement of test from background. How the instructions and their presumed association with different phenomenological states affect thresholds is not known. However, these results show that the magnitude of effects and the shapes of psychophysically measured functions can be affected by the instructions followed by the observer, whether self-imposed or imposed by the experimenter. © 1983.