, Volume 20, Issue 1, pp 49-54

Attention bands in absolute identification


If both the number of one-dimensional signals and their range are sufficiently large (about 7 and 20 dB for loudness), the information transmitted in absolute identification is not much increased by increasing either variable (Miller, 1956; Braida & Durlach, 1972). The data can be represented in terms of Thurstonian discriminal dispersions in which the variance is proportional to the square of the signal range in decibels (Durlach & Braida, 1969; Gravetter & Lockhead, 1973), but it is by no means obvious what sorts of mechanisms would lead to this model. An alternative is proposed, namely, that there is a roving attention band, about 10 to 15 dB wide, such that signals falling within the band are represented by a sensory sample size about an order ot magnitude larger than when the same signal falls outside the band. With reasonable choices for parameters, including the subjective continuum growing as a power function of intensity with an exponent about 3, this nicely accounts for the data. In an attempt to examine the change of performance with range, we replicated the BraidaoDurlach experiment with many additional points. These data are not, however, adequate to decide between the two models.

This work was supported in part by a National Science Foundation grant to the University of California, Irvine, and one to Harvard University.