chapter  8
13 Pages

Context Defines Psychology

WithGregory R. Lockhead

Harry Helson may be the prototypical author of the notion that perception and judgment are determined by the state of the organism and in conjunction with the stimulus. Thus, for example, his Adaptation Level Theory allows any particular physical weight X to be judged as light or heavy depending on the context. W. H. Ittleson reports many context effects in the classic Ames setting that are seen so immediately that adaptation cannot be the explanation. Strengthening the suggestion that context is an importent topic of concern for psychology. The pervasiveness of context effects militates against discovering psychophysical scales of attributes and uncovering literal interpretations of words and, most generally, probably against defining Psychology as a single discipline. Psychology must similarly be defined by converging arguments that relate differences or relations. Relations between the stimulus and other aspects of the situation are what the subject reports absolutely, i.e., with certainty, when making a judgment.