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Re: your mail

Dear Stew and List,

This is an example of where a shortage of names causes us to call a number
of tasks "discrimination".  You are quite right, of course, about the
involvement of memory in the task you describe, and the nature of the
memory will be different depending on the time between trials. This is
another instance of where you need to look at the psychological demands of
the task, rather than at the name of the task if you want to understand
what's going on.


On Mon, 12 Oct 1998, Stewart Hulse wrote:

> Dear Al --
> How about serial discrimination tasks where only one stimulus appears at a
> time, and the subject must rely on memory even for a simple two-stimulus
> discrimination?  Suppose the set size is just 2, but each set contains many
> exemplars.  I sense category discrimination lurking here somewhere.  Just
> goes to show you how simple things can become increasingly complicated
> depending upon assumptions.
> Cheers,
> Stew Hulse
> At 01:03 PM 10/12/98 -0400, you wrote:
> >Dear List,
> >
> >I don't agree that discrimination implies underlying set size of 2, and
> >that this is the only difference between identification and
> >discrimination.  The critical difference is that in discrimination, the
> >items to be distinguished are physically present on the trial.
> >
> >Here's an illustration:
> >
> >Create a hundred figures resembling chinese characters but built out of
> >short, straight, connected lines, such that the only thing that
> >distinguishes them is the number, orientation, and position of the
> >component lines.  Confusing?  You bet!
> >
> >In a discrimination experiment, on any one trial, randomly select two of
> >these figures, and present them side by side for as long as the subject
> >wishes.  Presumably the subject will score very high AS LONG AS THE
> >size of angle).  Even though the size of the underlying set of objects is
> >100, the two to be discriminated are always physically present.  From this
> >we see that set size is irrelevant in discrimination.  One need never have
> >formed a mental representation of the stimuli before the trial, if
> >inspection time is unlimited.
> >
> >Now teach the subject names for the 100 stimuli.  On each trial, present
> >one at random, ask for its name, then give feedback about correctness.
> >Treat the number of trials to a criterion (say four correct responses in a
> >row for stimulus n) as a measure of the subject's ability to perform an
> >identification.  This will be an incredibly difficult task, even though
> >the underlying set size is the same as in the discrimination task, and
> >even though the subject could discriminate any member of the set from any
> >other member in the discrimination task.
> >
> >The critical difference is that in discrimination, the to-be-discriminated
> >items are all physically present (there need not only be two).  The
> >psychological mechanisms for noticing differences between them involve
> >very-short-term memory as you glance back and forth from one to the other,
> >but this is not the same as the long-term memory required to remember
> >their names.
> >
> >Of course when you speed up the responses in a discrimination task or you
> >present the stimulus very quickly, the role of long-term memory increases
> >and set size becomes important.
> >
> >So every discrimination task taps (1) the limits of sensory capacity to
> >register differences, (2) very-short-term memory (3) long term-memory
> >representations.  By changing the properties of the task, you can tap
> >these processes in various combinations.
> >
> >I think to understand what's going on it is important to consider the
> >underlying mental processes and not just the formal properties of the
> >measurement task.
> >
> >Al
> >
> >----------------------------------------------------------------------
> >Albert S. Bregman,  Professor,  Dept of Psychology,  McGill University
> >1205  Docteur Penfield Avenue,   Montreal,  Quebec,  Canada   H3A 1B1.
> >Phone: +1 514-398-6103 Fax: -4896  Email: bregman@hebb.psych.mcgill.ca
> >Lab Web Page: http://www.psych.mcgill.ca/labs/auditory/laboratory.html
> >----------------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> >Email to AUDITORY should now be sent to AUDITORY@lists.mcgill.ca
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> >
> ======================================================
> Stewart H. Hulse, Ph.D.                     Phone: 410-516-7081
> Professor of Psychology                     Fax:  410-516-4478
> Department of Psychology                  Email:  hulse@jhu.edu
> Johns Hopkins University
> Baltimore, MD 21218
> ======================================================

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