The Orienting Response in Information Processing

The Orienting Response in Information Processing

The Orienting Response in Information Processing

The Orienting Response in Information Processing


This book is a testimony to Evgeny Nikolaevich Sokolov's years of work in developing knowledge in the areas of perception, information processing and attention, and to the research it has spawned. It presents a historical account of a research program, leading the reader toward a cognitive science approach to the study of perception and attention. An understanding of neuroscience and mathematical modeling are helpful prerequisites. The co-authors collected data on orienting, attention, and information processing in the brain using single-cell recordings, central, autonomic, cognitive, behavioral, and verbal measures. This commonality brought them together for a series of meetings which resulted in the production of this book. The book ends with a review of some of the co-authors studies that have developed from or in parallel with Sokolov's research. They investigate, in particular, the concepts of attention and anticipation using a psychophysiological methodology.


This book deals with the mechanisms of information processing, mainly by reference to neuronal processes involved in the orienting reflex or response (OR) or to specific activity directed toward the coding of information from the external world. It is based primarily on the work of Sokolov and his colleagues in the development of theories of information processing and coding using the concept of the OR. The first 10 chapters are based on lectures that he gave on a visit to the Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland, and they describe, in chapters organized conceptually, much of his empirical work, typically presented in summary form. Generally, each chapter is organized historically, so that it is possible to see how research ideas about the OR arise and are tested. These research ideas and theories are tested and developed further in later chapters, thus providing a commentary on the life and work of Sokolov described earlier.

The book may be conceptually divided into several parts:

The first two chapters are devoted to a macrolevel analysis of the OR concept. The OR is a system of responses including automatic and motor components, electroencephalographic (EEG) components, driving responses, and event-related potentials (ERPs). The book is initially concerned with nonsignal stimuli, this term referring to stimuli that are not endowed with what has been termed s&nzcance by special instructions (usually human studies) or conditioning (usually animal studies). Chapter 2 concerns the operation of the OR in the context of conditioned responses.

The second approach of the book refers to a microlevel analysis of the OR. Chapters 3–6 cover two different methods for the evaluation of neuronal effectiveness-extracellular recording for identification of spikes and intracellular recording for understanding processing at a synaptic level.

In the third approach of the book, an attempt is made to elucidate as far as is possible the value of ERPs in the context of the OR and their relationship to the neuronal mechanisms of the OR.

Chapters 8- 10 employ measures to develop information-processing explanations of the OR as indicated by perceptual, memory, and semantic spaces, particularly with reference to color vision. Mathematical modeling of psychophysiological data is then used to further our understanding of the mechanisms and properties of our perceptual systems.

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