Abstract

Visual agnosia is a neuropsychological syndrome characterized by a failure of object identification. Apperceptive agnosia, an object identification deficit caused by damage to early perceptual processes, has been explained by appealing to both damaged early sensory processes and to damaged preattentive grouping processes. Which of these two explanations best accounts for the behavior of these patients? We present results from two experiments designed to distinguish rival theoretical accounts of apperceptive agnosia. In our studies, we attempted to simulate apperceptive agnosia in neurologically intact subjects. Sensory-deficit accounts of the syndrome predict that degrading visual processing would make normal subjects perform like patients; grouping-deficit accounts predict that removing perceptual organization cues from visual displays would make normal subjects perform like patients. We were able to simulate the behavior of an apperceptive agnosic patient by removing perceptual organization cues, consistent with a grouping-deficit account of this syndrome. The implications for understanding both apperceptive agnosia and normal visual functioning are discussed.

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