Tom Bourbon [941004.1422]
Clark Mcphail [941003.1607] (I made a csg-l header for you, Clark.)
Tom Bourbon [941003.1032]
. . . As for the
social nature of psychophysics, I believe that is a topic ripe for the
plucking by a PCTish social scientist.
Could Muzafer Sherif's (1935) work contribute to this discussion? His
training in classical psychophysics was supplemented by extensive reading
in the social sciences which led him to the hypothesis that "social norms"
might have more to do with an individual's perception and behavior than the
physical properties of the world in which that perception and behavior took
Could Sherif's work contribute to the discussion? Certainly, but with some
clear limits on its role. You described his classic work on the autokinetic
phenomenon. (I'll not quote all of your post here.) I think his idea of
studying perception during social interactions was elegant, but in that line
of research, Sherif's unavoidably traditional training shows through.
Both Rick [From Rick Marken (941003.2330)] and Bill
[From Bill Powers (941003.2025 MDT)] have commented on some limitations on
Sherif's measures of performance, which Sherif took to be measures of
perception. My first caveat concerning Sherif's work returns to Fechner's
warning that we never directly measure perception in a psychophysical study.
That sounds like one of the warnings that always prompts a reply of, "oh,
but we all know that," but if we do, we certainly don't act as though we do.
My impression is that Sherif assumed he had identified real changes in
perceptions, induced by social interactions.
Of course, had Sherif known of CST-PCT, he would have done what Bill Powers
suggested, and what I would suggest to any up and coming young PCT social
scientist -- include a condition in which the subject uses a control device
to hold the spot of light motionless. The person's adjustments of the
device would give a nice indication (but still not a direct measure) of how
much motion the person saw. If you were to try that procedure with two or
more people, you would have an interesting experiment in social perceptual
control. Would the subjects disturb one another's perceptions of
motionlessness so severely that no one could hold the spot still? Would you
see evidence of the raging conflict I predict, when each person tries to
control his or her unique (and not really shared at all) perceptions of
_where_ the spot should remain and of _how much_ motion counts as
"motionless?" What would the members of a group do when they discovered
they were disturbing one another, or they were locked in conflict? Would
their individual reference perceptions change and if so would they become
more, or less, similar? Would some stop using the control device altogether?
And on it goes.
Is this remotely related to which you had in mind Tom?
As you can see, it is, but I also had in mind the idea that even the
_simplest_ and most basic psychophysical measures -- the "purest" if you
like -- are created in a social setting where subjects control for
something (or some things) in addition to, or quite different from, what
the experimenter wants to control. Even the purest psychophysical measures
(absolute and differential thresholds), which people often assume tell us
something direct about isolated parts of the subject's sensory systems, are
open to interpretation as examples of perceptual control, by whole persons,
during a social interaction. Here are even more opportunities for a PCT
social scientist. You people may get to have _all_ the fun.