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WeberFechner law

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The WeberFechner law attempts to describe the relationship between the physical
magnitudes of stimuli and the perceived intensity of the stimuli. Ernst einrich Weber
!"#$%&"'#'( was one of the first people to approach the study of the human response to a
physical stimulus in a )uantitative fashion. *ustav Theodor Fechner !"'+"&"''#( later
offered an elaborate theoretical interpretation of Weber,s findings, which he called simply
Weber's law.
" The case of weight
- The case of vision
. The case of sound
/ The case of numerical cognition
% 0ee also
1 2eferences
[edit] The case of weight
3n one of his e4periments, Weber gradually increased the weight that a blindfolded man
was holding and asked him to respond when he first felt the increase. Weber found that
the smallest noticeable difference in weight !the least difference that the test person can
still perceive as a difference(, was proportional to the starting value of the weight. That is
to say, if the weight is " kg, an increase of a few grams will not be noticed. 2ather, when
the mass is increased by a certain factor, an increase in weight is perceived. 3f the mass is
doubled, the threshold called smallest noticeable difference also doubles. This kind of
relationship can be described by a differential e)uation as,
where dp is the differential change in perception, dS is the differential increase in the
stimulus and S is the stimulus at the instant. 5 constant factor k is to be determined
3ntegrating the above e)uation gives
where C is the constant of integration, ln is the natural logarithm.
To determine C, put p 6 +, i.e. no perception7 then
where S
is that threshold of stimulus below which it is not perceived at all.
Therefore, our e)uation becomes
The relationship between stimulus and perception is logarithmic. This logarithmic
relationship means that if a stimulus varies as a geometric progression !i.e. multiplied by
a fi4ed factor(, the corresponding perception is altered in an arithmetic progression !i.e. in
additive constant amounts(. For e4ample, if a stimulus is tripled in strength !i.e, . 4 "(,
the corresponding perception may be two times as strong as its original value !i.e., " 8 "(.
3f the stimulus is again tripled in strength !i.e., . 4 . 4 "(, the corresponding perception
will be three times as strong as its original value !i.e., " 8 " 8 "(. ence, for
multiplications in stimulus strength, the strength of perception only adds.
This logarithmic relationship is valid, not 9ust for the sensation of weight, but for other
stimuli and our sensory perceptions as well.
3n addition, the mathematical derivations of the tor)ues on a simple beam balance
produce a description that is strictly compatible with Weber,s law !see link" or link-(.
[edit] The case of vision
The eye senses brightness appro4imately logarithmically over a fairly broad range. ence
stellar magnitude is measured on a logarithmic scale. This magnitude scale was invented
by the ancient *reek astronomer ipparchus in about "%+ :.;. e ranked the stars he
could see in terms of their brightness, with " representing the brightest down to 1
representing the faintest, though now the scale has been e4tended beyond these limits. 5n
increase in % magnitudes corresponds to a decrease in brightness by a factor of "++.
<odern researchers have attempted to incorporate such perceptual effects into
mathematical models of vision.
[edit] The case of sound
0till another logarithmic scale is the decibel scale of sound intensity. 5nd yet another is
pitch, which, however, differs from the other cases in that the physical )uantity involved
is not a ?strength?.
3n the case of perception of pitch, humans hear pitch in a logarithmic or geometric ratio@
based fashion: For notes spaced e)ually apart to the human ear, the fre)uencies are
related by a multiplicative factor. For instance, the fre)uency of corresponding notes of
ad9acent octaves differ by a factor of -. 0imilarly, the perceived difference in pitch
between "++ A and "%+ A is the same as between "+++ A and "%++ A. <usical
scales are always based on geometric relationships for this reason. Botation and theory
about music often refers to pitch intervals in an additive way, which makes sense if one
considers the logarithms of the fre)uencies, as
Coudness: Weber,s law does not )uite hold for loudness. 3t is a good appro4imation for
higher amplitudes, but not for lower amplitudes.
[edit] The case of numerical cognition
Dsychological studies show that numbers are thought of as e4isting along a mental
number line.
Carger entries are on the right and smaller entries on the left. 3t becomes
increasingly difficult to discriminate among two places on a number line as the distance
between the two places decreasesEknown as the distance effect.
This is important in
areas of magnitude estimation, such as dealing with large scales and estimating distances.
[edit] See also
0tevens, power law
Bervous 0ystem
uman nature
2icco,s Caw
[edit] References
". ^ Jianhong !Jackie( 0hen and Foon@<o Jung !-++1(, 5ppl. <ath. Gptim.,
%.!.(:.."@.%', Weberized Mumford-Shah model with Bose-Einstein photon noise
-. ^ Jianhong !Jackie( 0hen !-++.(, Dhysica H: Bonlinear Dhenomena,
"#%!.I/(:-/"@-%", On the foundations of vision modeling ! Weber"s law and
Weberized #$ %total variation& restoration .
.. ^ <oyer, 2. 0. J Candauer, T. K. !"$1#(, Bature, -"%:"%"$@"%-+, #ime re'uired
for (udgments of numerical ine'ualit) .
/. ^ Congo, <. 2. J lourenco, 0. F. !-++#(, Beuropsychologia, /%, "/++@"/+1,
Spatial attention and the mental number line* evidence for characteristic biases
and compression .
2etrieved from ?http:IIen.wikipedia.orgIwikiIWeberLMNFechnerOlaw?
;ategories: Derception P :ehavioral concepts P Dsychophysics
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