Mathematical Psychology and Psychophysiology

By Stephen Grossberg | Go to book overview

SIAM-AMS Proceedings Volume 13 1981


Invariant Properties of Masking Phenomena in Psychoacoustics and their Theoretical Consequences

GEOFFREY J. IVERSON AND MICHAEL PAVEL

Introduction. It is one of the ambitions of psychological acoustics to construct a theory of perceived intensity or loudness. There are two directions one may take in attempting to realize this ambition. On the one hand, one can adopt a theoretical language suited to the description and organization of neurophysiological data. On the other hand, another natural theoretical language is that of psychoacoustics, the study of loudness judgments. In this work we discuss psychoacoustic data only.

With the rare exception, one cannot expect to gain much insight into the problem of loudness from data collected within any one experimental context. It is when the data from one empirical paradigm share common, nontrivial features with those of another that advances are made. Examining data of our own, as well as those from a number of other studies, we have noted that such common features do occur, and we have abstracted them in terms of so-called "homogeneity" laws. These laws express the way in which a large class of data involving loudness judgments transforms under change of unit of the physical intensity scales used in measuring the data.

We briefly review our work on homogeneity laws in this paper, and in doing so we relate data from loudness discrimination, detection, partial masking and forward masking paradigms. While homogeneity laws are functional equations of great simplicity, they provide powerful constraints on any theory of loudness. If nothing else, we hope to make this point clear throughout.

Partial masking. Many real life situations illustrate the phenomenon of partial masking. For instance, it is often difficult, if not impossible, to carry on a

____________________
© 1981 American Mathematical Society
1980 Mathematics Subject Classification. Primary 92A27.
1

This work was supported in part by National Science Foundation Grant No. 77-16984, awarded to New York University.

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