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Conscious awareness of methodological choices: A reply to Milberg and McGlinchey

journal contribution
posted on 01.04.2010 by Marlene Behrmann, Sarah Shomstein, Ruth Kimchi

Milberg and McGlinchey (2010) claim that the conclusions we reach in “Perceptual Grouping Operates Independently of Attentional Selection: Evidence From Hemispatial Neglect” are unwarranted. Specifically, it is asserted that insufficient methodological control was exerted over the attentional status of the patients and that partial attention to the contralesional field could have resulted in the congruency effects we observe. Although we agree with their methodological cautions in general, we argue that our investigation is, in fact, methodologically sound. In particular, we reiterate and highlight that our investigation is unprecedented in the characterization of a patient sample with multiple clinical, psychophysical, and experimental measures; in our use of a stringent, rigidly controlled paradigm specifically designed for investigating perceptual grouping without awareness; in our modification of the experimental procedure to make it even more stringent; and in our specific methodological choices for comparison/control conditions within this experimental paradigm. We also demonstrate that partial attention to the contralesional left cannot support the robust congruency effects we observe. In light of this, we remain confident of our interpretation of our findings and suggest that perceptual grouping can indeed operate in the absence of attention.