Relative blindsight arises from a criterion confound in metacontrast masking: Implications for theories of consciousness

Consciousness and Cognition 21 (1):307-314 (2012)
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Abstract

Relative blindsight is said to occur when different levels of subjective awareness are obtained at equality of objective performance. Using metacontrast masking, Lau and Passingham reported relative blindsight in normal observers at the shorter of two stimulus-onset asynchronies between target and mask. Experiment 1 replicated the critical asymmetry in subjective awareness at equality of objective performance. We argue that this asymmetry cannot be regarded as evidence for relative blindsight because the observers’ responses were based on different attributes of the stimuli at the two SOAs. With an invariant criterion content , there was no asymmetry in subjective awareness across the two SOAs even though objective performance was the same. Experiment 3 examined the effect of criterion level on estimates of relative blindsight. Collectively, the present results question whether metacontrast masking is a suitable paradigm for establishing relative blindsight. Implications for theories of consciousness are discussed

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Ali Jannati
Simon Fraser University