Psychophysics: The Fundamentals

By George A. Gescheider | Go to book overview

4
Classical Psychophysical Theory

The application of the methods described in Chapter 3 yields a quantity which is expressed in physical units and called the threshold. The concept of the threshold as an index of absolute and differential sensitivity has been extremely useful in the study of sensory systems. Through the use of this quantity, investigators have been able to discover the stimuli to which our sensory systems are the most and the least sensitive. But psychophysicists have not restricted their work to this descriptive level: they have also gone beyond this level to propose theories concerning the underlying mechanisms of sensory thresholds. Each theory was proposed to account for empirical data obtained in psychophysical experiments. The theorists hoped to describe the neurophysiological or psychological processes within the observer which may have determined the observer's behavior. The validity of each theory must be evaluated by determining the degree to which precise quantitative deductions from the theory are confirmed by experimental data.


CLASSICAL THRESHOLD THEORY

Early threshold theories were based upon the assumption that the measurements obtained in psychophysical experiments were estimates of a neural threshold in the observer which could not be measured directly. It was thought that the threshold was a sharp transition point between sensation and no sensation, and that a specific, critical amount of neural activity must result from stimulation for the threshold to be exceeded. The

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Psychophysics: The Fundamentals
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments x
  • 1- Psychophysical Measurement Of Thresholds: Differential Sensitivity 1
  • 2- Psychophysical Measurement Of Thresholds: Absolute Sensitivity 16
  • 3- The Classical Psychophysical Methods 45
  • 4- Classical Psychophysical Theory 73
  • 5- The Theory of Signal Detection 105
  • 6- Further Considerations of Tsd 125
  • 7- Procedures of Tsd 142
  • 8- Some Applications of Tsd 166
  • 9- The Measurement of Sensory Attributes And Discrimination Scales 183
  • 10- Partition Scales 207
  • 11- Psychophysical Ratio Scaling 231
  • 12- Evaluation of Ratio Scaling Methods 264
  • 13- The Psychophysical Law 296
  • 14- Some Fundamental Issues In Psychophysical Scaling 327
  • Conclusion 369
  • Appendix 371
  • Glossary 392
  • References 408
  • Author Index 425
  • Subject Index 431
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