Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 757 pages of information about Harvard Psychological Studies, Volume 1.

In section IV.  I mentioned the fact that I found the illusion for passive touch to be subject to large fluctuations.  This is true also of the illusion for active touch.  When the finger-tip is drawn over the filled, and then out over the open space, the limits between which the stopping point varies is a much wider range than when the finger-tip is drawn over two open spaces.  In the latter case I found the variation to follow Weber’s Law in a general way.  At first I thought these erratic judgments were mere guesses on the part of the subject; but I soon discovered a certain consistency in the midst of these extreme fluctuations.  To show what I mean, I have plotted some diagrams based on a few of the results for three subjects.  These diagrams are found in Fig. 8.  It will be observed that the curve which represents the collection of stopping points is shorter and higher where the judgments were on two open spaces.  This shows plainly a greater accuracy in the judgments than when the judgments were on a filled and an open space, where the curves are seen to be longer and flatter.  This fluctuation in the illusion becomes important in the theoretical part of my discussion, and, at the risk of apparently emphasizing unduly an insignificant matter, I have given in Fig. 9 an exact copy of a sheet of judgments as it came from the apparatus.  This shows plainly how the illusion wears away with practice, when one distance is given several times in succession.  The subject was allowed to give his judgment on the same distance ten times before passing to another.  A glance at the diagram will show how pronounced the illusion is at first, and how it then disappears, and the judgment settles down to a uniform degree of accuracy.  It will be seen that the short filled space is at first overestimated, and then, with the succeeding judgments, this overestimation is gradually reduced.  In the case of the longer filled distances (which could not be conveniently reproduced here) the spaces were at first underestimated, and then this underestimation slowly decreased.

[Illustration:  FIG. 8.]

[Illustration:  FIG. 9.]

None of the qualitative studies that have hitherto been made on this illusion have brought to light this significant wearing away of the illusion.


I have already spoken of the defects of the apparatus with which the experiments of the previous chapter were made.  I shall now give an account of some experiments that were made with an apparatus designed to overcome these difficulties.  This is shown in Fig. 10.  The block C was clamped to a table, while the block A could be moved back and forth by the lever B, in order to bring up different lengths of filled space for judgment.  For each judgment the subject brought his finger back to the strip D, and by moving his finger up along the edge of this strip he always came into contact

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