Applications of Information Theory to Psychology: A Summary of Basic Concepts, Methods, and Results

By Fred Attneave | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
A New Approach to
Some Old Problems

INFORMATION THEORY is not psychological theory. A technique like the Garner-Hake-McGill method of informational analysis is as completely neutral with respect to psychological schools and controversies as is analysis of variance or x2. Yet it would be quite unrealistic to deny that certain broad concepts of information theory, which have little or nothing to do with specific statistical techniques, are also having their effect on psychological thinking. For an example: the work of Hovland and Weiss [41, 42] on the relative contribution of positive and negative instances to concept formation takes its "approach" from information theory, though the authors are not concerned with information in terms of bits.

It is also undeniable that the concepts of information theory are peculiarly compatible with certain points of view in psychology--particularly with the probabilistic functionalism of Brunswik [17, 18], and with statistical theories of behavior like those of Estes [25, 26] and Bush and Mosteller [19, 20]. Binder [15] has presented a statistical model for the process of visual

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