Social Attitudes and Psychophysical Measurement

Social Attitudes and Psychophysical Measurement

Social Attitudes and Psychophysical Measurement

Social Attitudes and Psychophysical Measurement

Excerpt

Can the knowledge we have gained in sensory psychophysics be applied to the realm of social attitude assessment? This question comes to mind only because sensory psychophysics, in comparison with social attitude theory, is so advanced that it is likely to be profitable when ideas of the former are made use of in the latter. However, whereas sensory psychophysics is based on the study of subjective magnitude in relation to physical magnitude, social psychophysics is divested of any prior measured physical correlate. Accordingly, turning to sensory psychophysics, the question of where to find a prototype theory not restricted to psychophysical settings and able to incorporate non-metric stimulation is promptly raised. What really is desired then is a comprehensive theory of sensation. How close has psychophysics come to this goal?

An answer to this question can be attempted along two lines. One method is to collect all unsuperseded psychophysical theories that have been proposed during the course of the discipline and to inspect them one by one to determine whether their claim is appropriate for forming a comprehensive theory, and whether that which they claim is justified. This, however, presupposes a rather firm idea of how this comprehensive theory of sensation ought to look. Obviously, the existence of such a firm idea is equivalent to a comprehensive theory, and thus the effort of searching for possible candidates for that theory is totally beside the point.

Another way of tackling the problem is this: It can be argued that the various approaches of contemporary psychophysics all touch upon important aspects of the object under study, regardless of how narrow their views or how limited their explanatory power. Together they form a considerable body of knowledge, the synopsis of which defines what we know about sensation and sensational pro-

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