The psychophysical function: harmonizing Fechner and Stevens

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Science  06 Apr 1979:
Vol. 204, Issue 4388, pp. 85-87
DOI: 10.1126/science.432630


The methods of Fechner and Stevens for assessing sensation quantity usually yield different psychophysical functions even when all other factors are controlled. In this experiment, corresponding differences occurred when different features of the same sensory receptor signals were analyzed. In the visual system, the receptor potential saturated if the peak but not the area was measured; these results match visual psychophysical functions obtained with the methods of Fechner and Stevens, respectively. This result suggests that both methods are equally valid but that each method yields the particular psychophysical function appropriate for a particular kind of information processing. A novel factor in determining sensation quantity, namely the time used by the observer to make a judgment, is implicated by the data.