G.T. Fechner originated psychophysics in the 1860s to describe mathematically the relationship between body and mind, the conscious experience of a sensation resulting from an external physical stimulus. Psychophysics had an important immediate impact on psychology, sensory physiology, and related fields, because it provided a means of measuring sensation which previously, like all other aspects of the mind, had been considered private and immeasurable. Knowledge of such variables is essential in human factors research on the compatibility of the environment and equipment with human sensory ability, and in evaluating human error. Historically, psychophysics promised to make possible a quantitative and scientific study of what was then described as “higher mental processes,” now a topic in cognitive science. It had a direct effect on Binet, for example, who developed the now universally used methods for measuring intelligence.


Sound Pressure Comparison Stimulus Logarithmic Function Horseshoe Crab Difference Limen 
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Further reading

  1. Baird JC, Noma E (1978): Fundamentals of Scaling and Psycho-physics. New York: Wiley & SonsGoogle Scholar
  2. Engen T (1984): Classical psychophysics: Humans as sensors. In: Clinical Measurement of Taste and Smell, Meiselman HL, Rivlin RS, eds. Lexington, Mass: Collamore PressGoogle Scholar
  3. Engen T (1971): Psychophysics I. Discrimination and detection and II. Scaling. In: Woodworth and Schlosberg’s Experimental Psychology, Kling JW, Riggs LA, eds., 3rd ed. New York: Holt, Rinehart and WinstonGoogle Scholar
  4. Stevens SS (1975): Psychophysics. New York: Wiley & SonsGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Boston, Inc. 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trygg Engen

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