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The concept of relative blindsight, referring to a difference in conscious awareness between conditions otherwise matched for performance, was introduced by Lau and Passingham (2006) as a way of identifying the neural correlates of consciousness (NCC) in fMRI experiments. By analogy, absolute blindsight refers to a difference between performance and awareness regardless of whether it is possible to match performance across conditions. Here, we address the question of whether relative and absolute blindsight in normal observers can be accounted for by response bias. In our replication of Lau and Passingham's experiment, the relative blindsight effect was abolished when performance was assessed by means of a bias-free 2AFC task or when the criterion for awareness was varied. Furthermore, there was no evidence of either relative or absolute blindsight when both performance and awareness were assessed with bias-free measures derived from confidence ratings using signal detection theory. This suggests that both relative and absolute blindsight in normal observers amount to no more than variations in response bias in the assessment of performance and awareness. Consideration of the properties of psychometric functions reveals a number of ways in which relative and absolute blindsight could arise trivially and elucidates a basis for the distinction between Type 1 and Type 2 blindsight.

Original publication




Journal article


Conscious Cogn

Publication Date





79 - 91


Blindsight, Confidence ratings, Conscious awareness, Low vision, Metaconstrast masking, Signal detection, Type 2 blindsight, Adolescent, Adult, Awareness, Consciousness, Humans, Perceptual Masking, Signal Detection, Psychological, Visual Perception, Young Adult