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How attention affects perception - Mach and Stumpf

  1. Nov 18, 2015 #1
    This is a bit of a logic problem that should be figure-outable from the information

    At the turn of the last century there was a debate about whether attention increased the perception of something by increasing the clarity of that one thing, or by decreasing the clarity of everything except that one thing.
    Mach and Stumpf did an "experiment" that I can't find anywhere except my textbook, where they listened to a note (on its own and then) as part of a chord. One of them found that the tone was more intense (louder) as part of the chord and the other found that it wasn't.

    I put that bit in brackets in myself, it isn't mentioned in the book. .but I think they must mean that. I also think that they must mean that Mach, who said that the tone was more intense (seemed louder) in the chord, was concluding that the tone was made more clear in order to be perceived better.. and Stumpf, who said that the tone wasn't more intense, was concluding that everything else was dimmed in order to allow him to focus on that one note.

    What it, infuriatingly, doesn't say is whether it was louder than the other notes in the chord or whether it was louder than in the other condition, which I assume there was even though it isn't mentioned: the condition of the tone without a chord.

    The book is Attention by Addie Johnson and Robert W. Procter. Does my interpretation of this make sense or is there some gaping flaw that I am missing?

    When I first read it I was completely stumpfed ba dam bam tsh sorry.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 19, 2015 #2


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    Hello Rabbit Who ( Is that like Doctor Who ?:biggrin: )
    The "experiment" might not have happened, but just as an anecdotal summary of their ( and others at the time ) years of thinking and describing the topic. With no reference to an actual event in the book, that might be the case. Just saying.

    The word "intense" could mean many things. Is that the author(s)' choice of words, or is it used as a quote from writings from Mach and/or Stumpf? If there is no other description, then different readers are left to interpret the meaning as they wish. Louder may not be agreed upon.

    What about an interpretation that the note on its own seems clinical and devoid of instilling an emotional response from an individual, but when within a group of notes seems to naturally belong within the group, or vice-versa. Other interpretations are possible.

    The reason I mention the above is that subjective interpretation is problematic in these kinds of study.

    a good example.
    Does the chord + note together seem louder, and thus, in nrelation, the note with the chord appears louder than before?
    Does the interval of time between playing the note and the chord+note have a bearing upon which( ie the note) appears louder?

    I would say that you are thinking about the information given to you, rather than accepting and being spoon fed as fact.
  4. Nov 19, 2015 #3
    Not Doctor Who :D When I was a teenager I was big into Watership Down RPGs, and my handle was rabbit_who_runs_with_the_hares on yahoo. I shortened that to RabbitWho and stuck with it. I guess part of me hopes I'll run into someone I knew back then! But the internet is very big.

    Thanks for your input on that. Even though the text is ambiguous, talking about it like this is helpful for my memory of the information and my understanding.
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