An Essay Evolves / The Nicer (Neisser) Page
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The Nicer (Neisser) Page

Page history last edited by PBworks 15 years, 3 months ago

Ulric Neisser was something of an inspiration to me... he theorised a number of different kinds of working memory which he discussed in his book "Cognitive Psychology". As an undergraduate student in Birkbeck College in the 1970s, we worked his theories to death... but ... the concept of a micro-short term memory was compulsive. As undergraduates we tested (via a Tachistiscope) a variety of his notions. Essentially this meant that 'Subjects' (Please look up the ideological/ethical understandings of that term) were presented with a 3x3 matrix of numbers - flashed for a low number of milliseconds.


These same 'subjects' (sorry for the apostrophes but I still have difficulty using the word without some explication) were then presented with a musical tone. Low tone, medium tone and high tone. 'Subjects' were asked, depending on the level of the tone, to report what numbers they'd seen in a given row. Given a 3x3 matrix, a high tone would indicate they should report the top line of 3 numbers; a low tone would indicate a report of the bottom row etc


'Subjects' reported very accurately the contents of each and any row of the matrix not knowing beforehand what they would be asked to report upon. The implication of that study is that for very short periods of time, 'subjects' see all possible combinations of that number matrix and that therefore they see a whole range of phenomena before they make a selection of which aspects are valid....




Yes, this is really mighty interesting. To me, it also suggests a possible conflict between 'blink' and 'think'. In a mere blink, participants (more about this terminology later) capture the entire stimulus array (bottom-up processing). Then, when they are asked to report the content of a particular line in the array, their attention zooms in on that line as they start to think about what they've seen (top-down processing). Quite clearly, 'think' enabled them to make information out of a sensory stimulus, but perhaps at the cost of a more global awareness.


I wonder what the limits of this micro STM are? I remember from lectures that the STM has a capacity of 7 +/- 2 'chunks'.  


Hmm. Also, I wonder what the results would have been if, instead of playing a tone, the experimenter had given a verbal instruction to the participants (processing of sentences presumably being closer to think than blink).

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