Confusing the "Confusion Matrix": The Misapplication of Shannon Information Theory in Sensory Psychology

Acta Systemica 12 (1):1-17 (2012)
  Copy   BIBTEX


Information flow in a system is a core cybernetics concept. It has been used frequently in Sensory Psychology since 1951. There, Shannon Information Theory was used to calculate "information transmitted" in "absolute identification" experiments involving human subjects. Originally, in Shannon's "system", any symbol received ("outcome") is among the symbols sent ("events"). Not all symbols are received as transmitted, hence an indirect noise measure is calculated, "information transmitted", which requires knowing the confusion matrix, its columns labeled by "event" and its rows labeled by "outcome". Each matrix entry is dependent upon the frequency with which a particular outcome corresponds to a particular event. However, for the sensory psychologist, stimulus intensities are "events"; the experimenter partitions the intensity continuum into ranges called "stimulus categories" and "response categories", such that each confusion-matrix entry represents the frequency with which a stimulus from a stimulus category falls within a particular response category. Of course, a stimulus evokes a sensation, and the subject's immediate memory of it is compared to the memories of sensations learned during practice, to make a categorization. Categorizing thus introduces "false noise", which is only removed if categorizations can be converted back to their hypothetical evoking stimuli. But sensations and categorizations are both statistically distributed, and the stimulus that corresponds to a given mean categorization cannot be known from only the latter; the relation of intensity to mean sensation, and of mean sensation to mean categorization, are needed. Neither, however, are presently knowable. This is a quandary, which arose because sensory psychologists ignored an ubiquitous component of Shannon's "system", the uninvolved observer, who calculates "information transmitted". Human sensory systems, however, are within de facto observers, making "false noise" inevitable.



External links

  • This entry has no external links. Add one.
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library

Similar books and articles

Is uncertainty reduction the basis for perception? Errors in Norwich’s Entropy Theory of Perception imply otherwise.Lance Nizami - 2010 - Proceedings of the World Congress on Engineering and Computer Science 2010 (Lecture Notes in Engineering and Computer Science) 2.
Information Theory is abused in neuroscience.Lance Nizami - 2019 - Cybernetics and Human Knowing 26 (4):47-97.
Getting the most out of Shannon information.Oliver M. Lean - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):395-413.
A Generalization of Shannon's Information Theory.Chenguang Lu - 1999 - Int. J. Of General Systems 28 (6):453-490.
A role for representations in inflexible behavior.Todd Ganson - 2020 - Biology and Philosophy 35 (4):1-18.


Added to PP

89 (#139,622)

6 months
22 (#51,762)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

References found in this work

No references found.

Add more references