Re: Bates's question about claps (Al Bregman )

Subject: Re: Bates's question about claps
From:    Al Bregman  <BREGMAN(at)PSYCH.MCGILL.CA>
Date:    Mon, 14 May 2001 17:22:13 -0400

Dear List, John Bates wrote: "You can no longer pick out the streams and groups. The applause you get is a single amorphous spatially distributed stream of noise. What happened to the groups? And is it important to know this?" This question reinforces the necessity of distinguishing between the physical and psychological levels of description. At the physical level, when a single set of claps is joined by a multitude of others, the original groups -- or "physical groups" as Bruno would say -- are still there, since the presence of other claps doesn't affect the existence of the first set of claps. However, at the psychological level, nothing "happened" to the group consisting of the clapping of a single person, when it was accompanied by a multitude of claps. Its representation was simply not mentally created in the latter case, because the acoustic discontinuities needed to define it were not detectable. It seems that perception (unlike many computer models,of it) does not start with the individual claps or similar small entities, using them to build up the amorphous mass of clapping. Rather it starts with the global input and forms smaller units only when it detects discontinuities in the input that justify subdividing it into units. From this perspective, the question of where the smaller units went when they were part of a mass does not arise. They simply were not differentiated out of the whole. Al ------------------------------------------------- Albert S. Bregman, Emeritus Professor Dept of Psychology, McGill University 1205 Docteur Penfield Avenue Montreal, QC, Canada H3A 1B1 Office: Phone: +1 (514) 398-6103 Fax: +1 (514) 398-4896 Home: Phone & Fax: +1 (514) 484-2592 Email: bregman(at) -------------------------------------------------

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