Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Information Theory's Place in Psychology

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Information Theory's Place in Psychology

Article excerpt

INFORMATION THEORY

Laming (2010). Statistical information and uncertainty. Entropy, 12, 720. doi:10.3390/e12040720

Are you now or have you ever been a Bayesian? If so, you might want to have a look at the counterargument in Laming's extremely lucid review of information theory in experimental psychology. According to Bayesian theory, observers consider the "prior" probabilities of various types of stimulation before establishing criteria for the corresponding responses in a psychophysical task. Of course, something like that would need to be done if observers were attempting to maximize their performance.

The basis for Laming's argument is evidence consistent with Thomas and Legge's (1970, Psychol Rev 77:65) suggestion that response frequencies match presentation probabilities, rather than minimizing errors or anything like that. Of course, one could argue that decision criteria are placed so as to optimize implicit utility rather than objective performance, but Laming sees the success of national lotteries as evidence against this proposition. Although some people may be capable of making decisions that are based on probability calculations, Laming believes that "those people do not gamble." (He is wrong. Those people do gamble, just not against the house. When they talk about "luck," it is jive.)

Of course, behavior may be different outside versus inside the laboratory. Therefore, the failure of current utility functions to explain criterion placement does not necessarily doom all such models. …

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