We examined whether data demonstrating contrast sensitivity losses in dyslexia that have been interpreted as evidence for loss of magnocellular visual function could be explained by inattention. Computer simulations of observers with poor concentration yielded inflated estimates of threshold that were a constant proportion of the true threshold across spatial frequencies. Data from many, but not all, studies supporting the magnocellular deficit theory are well described by these simulations, which predicted no interaction between observer group and spatial frequency. Some studies have reported significant interactions, but suffer from statistical deficiencies. This compromises some of the evidence for a magnocellular deficit in dyslexia derived from studies of threshold contrast sensitivity.