Re: pitch ("Charles S. Watson" )

Subject: Re: pitch
From:    "Charles S. Watson"  <watson(at)INDIANA.EDU>
Date:    Mon, 31 Aug 1998 11:42:26 -0500

Dear Al and List... You are certainly right that I, along with every other sensory investigator I have known, believe that there is something in the head that accounts for the orderly responses given when we ask people to rank stimuli on some semantic scale or other (ie, loudness, brightness, annoyance, roughness, etc.). The more similar the judgements are from one person to the next (ie for loudness and brightness, but not so much for annoyance or roughness) the more convinced we become that we really are studying a fundamental dimension of processing. Nevertheless, I believe that when we do such things we are basically studying the way the observer's use the language. That is different in a very fundamental way from determining their sensitivity to sounds of various levels, or their abilities to distiguish one SPL from another, or to categorize them into 7 +/-2 (or some other number) of categories. I believe that the words we use in scaling experiments are a very indirect measure of what is going on in consciousness (or in the central processor, or brain, or your favorite neural net or whatever one prefers to fill the space between input and output of the system)... I guess I agree with Korzybski's arguments (General Semantics) about what a lousy representation of reality human language is, even the realities are in the head as well as those of the rest of the universe. I don't think that calling Steven's Power Law experiments exercises in number generation is really too wide of the mark, as a matter of fact that is what Korzybski would have recommended as a way of avoiding the vagueness of saying that a sound is "very loud." Measures, as Stevens argued so strongly, are only understandable in terms of the operations used to obtain them. The operations involved in measuring sensory capabilities (like just-detectible increments in SPL) are very different from those used to measure response proclivities (like judging the relative loudness of two 50-dB, SPL tones, one at 125 Hz and the other at 500 Hz). In the first case we can appeal to an external source of information to decide whether the observers give the "correct answer", in the second we cannot. As a consequence, we go about the measures in very different ways...and interpret them accordingly. The challenge, to me, is to relate the two domains. I suspect we are not really too far apart... Chuck On Sat, 29 Aug 1998, Al Bregman wrote: > Dear Chuck and List, > > Is it introspection when a person says, "That tone sounds twice as loud to > me than the other"? True, the researcher doesn't know about it until the > subject puts it into words, but does the latter mean that it is not an > introspection? Without such introspections (transmitted to the researcher > by words or numbers), we would not, for example, have Stevens's Power Law > for loudness. If the power law simply described the giving of numbers in > response to tones, who would care about it? After all, number-giving > behavior is not high on the list of things we want to explain in > psychology. We care about it because we think it is a report on the > experience of loudness, a phenomenon that really IS of interest to us. > > Many people pay lip service to positivism while really understanding that > it is the underlying EXPERIENCE that is of interest. No, Chuck, I don't > think you are a positivist -- at least not if you think the power law is > about loudness and not number-giving behavior. > > Cheers, > > Al > > Email to AUDITORY should now be sent to AUDITORY(at) > LISTSERV commands should be sent to listserv(at) > Information is available on the WEB at > Email to AUDITORY should now be sent to AUDITORY(at) LISTSERV commands should be sent to listserv(at) Information is available on the WEB at

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