Is uncertainty reduction the basis for perception? Errors in Norwich’s Entropy Theory of Perception imply otherwise

Proceedings of the World Congress on Engineering and Computer Science 2010 (Lecture Notes in Engineering and Computer Science) 2 (2010)
  Copy   BIBTEX


This paper reveals errors within Norwich et al.’s Entropy Theory of Perception, errors that have broad implications for our understanding of perception. What Norwich and coauthors dubbed their “informational theory of neural coding” is based on cybernetics, that is, control and communication in man and machine. The Entropy Theory uses information theory to interpret human performance in absolute judgments. There, the continuum of the intensity of a sensory stimulus is cut into categories and the subject is shown exemplar stimuli of each category. The subject must then identify individual exemplars by category. The identifications are recorded in the Garner-Hake version of the Shannon “confusion matrix”. The matrix yields “H”, the entropy (degree of uncertainty) about what stimulus was presented. Hypothetically, uncertainty drops as a stimulus lengthens, i.e. a plot of H vs. stimulus duration should fall monotonically. Such “adaptation” is known for both sensation and firing rate. Hence, because “the physiological adaptation curve has the same general shape as the psychophysical adaptation curve”, Norwich et al. assumed that both have the same time course; sensation and firing rate were thus both declared proportional to H. However, a closer look reveals insurmountable contradictions. First, the peripheral neuron hypothetically cannot fire in response to a stimulus of a given intensity until after somehow computing H from its responses to stimuli of various intensities. Thus no sensation occurs until firing rate adapts, i.e. attains its spontaneous rate. But hypothetically, once adaptation is complete, certainty is reached and perception ends. Altogether, then, perception cannot occur until perception is over. Secondly, sensations, firing rates, and H’s are empirically not synchronous, contrary to assumption. In sum, the core concept of the cybernetics-based Entropy Theory of Perception, that is, that uncertainty reduction is the basis for perception, is irrational.



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

Physical entropy and the senses.Kenneth H. Norwich - 2005 - Acta Biotheoretica 53 (3):167-180.
On the fundamental nature of perception.Kenneth H. Norwich - 1991 - Acta Biotheoretica 39 (1):81-90.
In Defense of the Cognitivist Theory of Perception.D. M. Armstrong - 2004 - The Harvard Review of Philosophy 12 (1):19-26.
Perception, sensation, and non-conceptual content.David W. Hamlyn - 1994 - Philosophical Quarterly 44 (175):139-53.
The function of sensations in Reid.Todd Buras - 2009 - Journal of the History of Philosophy 47 (3):pp. 329-353.
Reidian Dual Component Theory defended.Todd Buras - 2011 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 41 (S1):4-24.
Action-oriented representation.Pete Mandik - 2005 - In Andrew Brook & Kathleen Akins (eds.), Cognition and the Brain: The Philosophy and Neuroscience Movement. Cambridge University Press. pp. 284--305.
The Musical Expression of Emotion: Metaphorical-As versus Imaginative-As Perception.Malcolm Budd - 2012 - Estetika: The European Journal of Aesthetics 49 (2):131-147.
Images and Kant’s Theory of Perception.Samantha Matherne - 2015 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 2.
Temporal course of perception in an immediate recall task.Doris Aaronson - 1968 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 76 (1p1):129.


Added to PP

46 (#256,261)

6 months
6 (#132,731)

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