Is blindsight like normal, near-threshold vision?
Azzopardi P., Cowey A.
Blindsight is the rare and paradoxical ability of some human subjects with occipital lobe brain damage to discriminate unseen stimuli in their clinically blind field defects when forced-choice procedures are used, implying that lesions of striate cortex produce a sharp dissociation between visual performance and visual awareness. Skeptics have argued that this is no different from the behavior of normal subjects at the lower limits of conscious vision, at which such dissociations could arise trivially by using different response criteria during clinical and forced-choice tests. We tested this claim explicitly by measuring the sensitivity of a hemianopic patient independently of his response criterion in yes-no and forced-choice detection tasks with the same stimulus and found that, unlike normal controls, his sensitivity was significantly higher during the forced-choice task. Thus, the dissociation by which blindsight is defined is not simply due to a difference in the patients' response bias between the two paradigms. This result implies that blindsight is unlike normal, near-threshold vision and that information about the stimulus is processed in blindsighted patients in an unusual way.