Psychophysics beyond Sensation: Laws and Invariants of Human Cognition

Psychophysics beyond Sensation: Laws and Invariants of Human Cognition

Psychophysics beyond Sensation: Laws and Invariants of Human Cognition

Psychophysics beyond Sensation: Laws and Invariants of Human Cognition

Synopsis

This volume presents a series of studies that expand laws, invariants, and principles of psychophysics beyond its classical domain of sensation. This book's goal is to demonstrate the extent of the domain of psychophysics, ranging from sensory processes, through sensory memory and short-term memory issues, to the interaction between sensation and action. The dynamics and timing of human performance are a further important issue within this extended framework of psychophysics: Given the similarity of the various cortical areas in terms of their neuroanatomical structure, it is an important question whether this similarity is paralleled by a similarity of processes. These issues are addressed by the contributions in the present volume using state-of-the-art research methods in behavioral research, psychophysiology, and mathematical modeling.

The book is divided into four sections. Part I presents contributions concerning the classical domain of psychophysical judgment. The next two parts are concerned with elementary and higher-order processes and the concluding section deals with psychophysical models. The sections are introduced by guest editorials contributed by independent authors. These editorials present the authors' personals view on the respective section, providing an integrated account of the various contributions or highlighting their focus of interest among them. While also voicing their own and sometimes different point of view, they contribute to the process of discussion that makes science so exciting.

This volume should be of great interest to advanced students in neuroscience, cognitive science, psychology, neuropsychology, and related areas who seek to evaluate the range and power of psychological work today. Established scientists in those fields will also appreciate the variety of issues addressed within the same methodological framework and their multiple interconnections and stimulating "cross-talk."

Excerpt

Since its origins, psychophysics has studied the relation of physical stimulus (outer psychophysics), its neurophysiological correlate (inner psychophysics). or both to sensation. In the 1950s (cognitive term, “new look”), sensation was linked to memory and other higher-order cognitive processes. Subsequently, psychophysical methods were used not only to study sensation as such but also to explore the complex interrelations among physical stimulus, sensation, and internal representations.

This volume presents a series of studies that expand laws, invariants, and principles of psychophysics beyond its classical domain of sensation. In spite of the equivalence of methods, such contributions are often not regarded as “psychophysics.” For example, can studies on memory be considered as psychophysical in the same way as studies on sensation? A strong cue to an answer derives from neuroanatomy: It is a fascinating fact that the cortex of the human brain is composed of the same types of neurons, organized in the same assemblage of layers, with the same variety of intralayer and interlayer connections, for primary sensory cortices, secondary and higher-order sensory cortices, up to complex areas with cells sensitive to objects such as hands and faces, for association areas, and for motor cortices. Thus, it is the similarity not only of methods but also of the substrate that suggests an extension of psychophysics beyond sensation.

It is our goal to demonstrate the extent of the domain of psychophysics, ranging from sensory processes (but linked to internal representations), through sensory memory and short-term memory issues, to the interaction between sensation and action. The dynamics and timing of human performance are a further important issue within this extended framework of psychophysics: Given the similarity of the various cortical areas in terms of their neuroanatomical structure, it is an important question whether this similarity is paralleled by a similarity of processes. These issues are addressed here by state-of-the-art research methods in behavioral research, psychophysiology, and mathematical modeling.

The idea of putting this volume together originated at a symposium organized to mark Hans-Georg Geissler's 65th birthday. In this symposium, which was attended by many renowned scientists, issues and perspectives of psychophysical research were examined. On the basis of presentations and discussions, we concluded that it was timely to demonstrate the reach of psychophysical methods and theorizing . . .

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