Kybernetes 42:1447-1456 (2013)

Purpose – A key cybernetics concept, information transmitted in a system, was quantified by Shannon. It quickly gained prominence, inspiring a version by Harvard psychologists Garner and Hake for “absolute identification” experiments. There, human subjects “categorize” sensory stimuli, affording “information transmitted” in perception. The Garner-Hake formulation has been in continuous use for 62 years, exerting enormous influence. But some experienced theorists and reviewers have criticized it as uninformative. They could not explain why, and were ignored. Here, the “why” is answered. The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach – A key Shannon data-organizing tool is the confusion matrix. Its columns and rows are, respectively, labeled by “symbol sent” (event) and “symbol received” (outcome), such that matrix entries represent how often outcomes actually corresponded to events. Garner and Hake made their own version of the matrix, which deserves scrutiny, and is minutely examined here. Findings – The Garner-Hake confusion-matrix columns represent “stimulus categories”, ranges of some physical stimulus attribute (usually intensity), and its rows represent “response categories” of the subject’s identification of the attribute. The matrix entries thus show how often an identification empirically corresponds to an intensity, such that “outcomes” and “events” differ in kind (unlike Shannon’s). Obtaining a true “information transmitted” therefore requires stimulus categorizations to be converted to hypothetical evoking stimuli, achievable (in principle) by relating categorization to sensation to intensity. But those relations are actually unknown, perhaps unknowable. Originality/value – The author achieves an important understanding: why “absolute identification” experiments do not illuminate sensory processes.
Keywords Psychology  Information theory  Sensory  Shannon
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

View all 8 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

A Generalization of Shannon's Information Theory.Chenguang Lu - 1999 - Int. J. Of General Systems 28 (6):453-490.
Sensory Conditioning.H. Cason - 1936 - Journal of Experimental Psychology 19 (5):572.
Getting the Most Out of Shannon Information.Oliver M. Lean - 2014 - Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):395-413.


Added to PP index

Total views
40 ( #240,467 of 2,344,030 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
6 ( #120,670 of 2,344,030 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes