Attention and Performance VIII

Attention and Performance VIII

Attention and Performance VIII

Attention and Performance VIII

Excerpt

Functional aspects of information processing are discussed, with function having three different but related meanings. First, function is contrasted with structure, and such functional properties as expectancy, attention, effort, and state and process limitation are shown to differ from the primary structural construct of information processing stages. Second, function is a presuppositional aspect of information processing experiments, and these presuppositions, while keeping the experimental effort within bounds, must be considered as operations that converge to theoretical constructs as much as the experiments themselves do. Third, functional measurement decreases the importance of time as an absolute metric, thus exchanging for the power of absolute time a flexibility of interpretation which will allow methodological constructs such as additive and subtractive factors logic to survive experimental inconsistencies.

In this chapter I discuss several substantive and methodological issues that I see as important in the study of human information processing, and these all relate to the idea of function in information-processing research. At Attention and Performance VI, A. F. Sanders (1977) spoke on structural and functional aspects of the reaction process, and some of the things I mention fit comfortably onto the ideas he expressed in distinguishing these two aspects of the reaction process. Stages constitute the primary structural aspect of information processing, but I want to expand the concept of function and to elaborate some very specific issues concerning functional aspects of information processing. Three different ways in which the idea of function enters into information processing research are described. To anticipate, there is func-

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