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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2012 > Apr > Apr 27

Bruner/Postman Experiment

From: Cathy Reason <Cathym.nul>
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2012 18:11:30 +0100
Archived: Fri, 27 Apr 2012 13:15:34 -0400
Subject: Bruner/Postman Experiment

Unfortunately my ISP seems to have swallowed most of the mail
yesterday; but I understand from the archives that Martin Shough
has been asking about the Bruner/Postman 1949 experiment in
recognizing anomalous playing cards, and its possible relevance
to the perception and understanding of anomalies generally.

Well first of all Martin, I'm afraid to report that I don't
remember knowing anything about this experiment - or if I ever
did, I've forgotten it. But I've just read through the paper and
also watched the You-tube presentation of the experimental
design, so here are my thoughts for what they're worth.

Firstly I notice from the You-tube presentation that it's
actually quite difficult to resolve the image in the time
allowed, especially for the faster presentations. There also
isn't time to scan the image and so only that part of the image
close to the fixation point is properly resolved at all, the
rest falling within peripheral vision.

Secondly, there are potential confounding factors in the
experiment which couldn't have been known about in 1949; for
example, we now know that form and color are processed in
separate visual pathways in the brain. So any experiment that
relies, as this one does, on tinkering with the relationship
between form and color is obviously on sticky ground at the

The paper seems to me to conform to the general pattern of
papers in cognitive psychology - which is to say, it's about 5%
actual evidence and about 95% interpretation. Regarded purely as
psychophysical data, what is seems to tell us is that the more
information you need to identify a target as distinctive, the
longer it takes to process it, which is entirely consistent with
the results from say, visual search experiments (although I
should emphasize the Bruner/Postman paradigm is not a visual
search experiment). As for the varous compromise and disruption
effects, these seem to me most likely the result of interference
between perception (which is highly time-constrained in this
design) and associative memory.

The sort of effect Kuhn is talking about seems to me to have a
lot more to do with judgement and interpretation than it has to
do with perception. And that is as they say, a whole other


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