Perception of Changes in Certain Exteroceptive Stimuli

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  24 Sep 1971:
Vol. 173, Issue 4003, pp. 1206-1211
DOI: 10.1126/science.173.4003.1206


Although cybernetic models of one sort or another have become quite common in behavioral research, and although these models theoretically require a capacity for system detection of changes in error, no general psychophysical description of the individual human being's ability to discriminate different rates of stimulation is available. An initial survey of this type has been attempted and is reported here.

For reasons which appear to be related to the biological mechanisms underlying sensory information processing, it is concluded, first, that ancillary cues of rate-related final magnitude are more valuable than cues of stimulus duration; second, that direct attention to on-going change is less precise than attention to final values only; and third, that differences in isochronal stimulus rates occurring in place or extent are more readily perceived than differences in isochronal rate of change in energy content, at least for the stimuli and ranges examined.