Indexed on: 01 May '83Published on: 01 May '83Published in: Perception & psychophysics
An important question about individual differences in the exponent of the psychophysical power law is how they should be interpreted. The differences may reflect permanent characteristics of individuals, and it has been argued that, if this is so, the range of these differences is so great as to identify the class of data as exceptional among the physical and biological sciences. Cited as evidence of such permanence has been the correlation between individual exponents obtained on two separate occasions. In a previous paper, we showed that increasing the time interval between occasions reduced the correlation to a nonsignificant level; we argued, therefore, that obtained individual differences in exponents, even though large, depended upon the operation of factors only incidentally associated with the particular observer. In a series of new studies of session-to-session correlation between individual exponents, we provide evidence that: (1) our original finding for magnitude estimates of visual size is repeatable, with the correlation dropping to nearly zero after 1 week; (2) when judged line length is matched to brightness, a delay of I week is sufficient to produce a nonsignificant correlation; (3) in contrast, magnitude estimates of loudness yield significant correlations after a week’s delay; (4) but, when moduli are arbitrarily changed between sessions by the experimenter, these correlations for magnitude estimates of loudness drop to a nonsignificant level, even for a zero-delay condition. We conclude that, whereas in some scaling tasks the passage of time alone between sessions is sufficient to disrupt what appears to be the mnemonic basis for session-to-session correlation, in other (less familiar) tasks, more positive interference (in the form of a modulus change) is needed to achieve the same end. The evidence is consistent with the belief that enduring characteristics of the observer contribute only a small portion of the variability in individual power law exponents.