Report of Panel IV: Mental Chronometry
|Panel chair:||W. Chase|
|Panel members:|| G. McCarthy|
Chase: Cognitive psychologists attend a conference like this because they are interested in finding out what physiological psychology can offer psychology. Without a doubt, the two "physiological" research programs that had the greatest impact on concepts in psychology are the single-unit recordings of Hu bel and Wiesel ( 1962) and the split-brain studies of Sperry and Gazzaniga ( Sperry, 1961). For better or worse, cognitive theory has been influenced greatly by these physiological investigations. The question that is at the core of this panel's assignment is, how can ERP research contribute to our understanding of physiological mechanisms and cognitive processes? It's quite obvious by now that electrophysiological research does have a lot to say about cognitive processes. For example, before coming to this conference I thought that filter theory was a dead issue. But it is clear from Hillyard's work that the N100 does have something to do with attention. From Donchin's work it is clear that something interesting is happening with respect to expectancy and P300.
So on what issues will electrophysiological research have an impact? As Shiffrin said, from a chronometric point of view we definitely need a physiological model of reaction time. Research on the ERP can tell us what the physiological mechanisms of reaction time are. There is no question that ERP research can help in changing our ideas about attention. There are ideas about limited capacity mechanisms. I think that as cognitive psychologists we believe that we are measuring limited capacity mechanisms, and I am sure that ERP research can tell us more about that. I personally think that the propositional