Bauhaus-Universität Weimar

Experimental Psychology: A Manual of Laboratory Practice, Vol. I: Qualitative Experiments, part 2: Instructor's Manual
Titchener, Edward B.
§ 43- Fluctuations of Attention 
distracting stimuli. Thirdly, an unsteady fixation or a change 
of accommodation may bring the grey ring to disappearance. 
Fortunately, a trairfed O is able by introspection to discrimi¬ 
nate between these accidental or artificial oscillations and the 
true fluctuations of attention. And the quantitative procedure 
comes, here as so often, to the aid of qualitative analysis. On 
the one hand, by direct comparison of the kymograph curve 
with O's written record, E can identify the ‘ good ’ and the 
‘bad ’ fluctuations ; on the other, this record is made more care¬ 
ful and more reliable by O's knowledge that the curve will bear 
him out in the truth and detect him in falsehood. Cf. what 
was said above of the plethysmographic curves, p. 181. 
(12) This question raises the whole problem of the fluctua¬ 
tions of attention. The best general account is that given by 
Wundt, Phys. Psych., ii., 295-301. A programme for investi¬ 
gation may be made out as follows. 
(a) Variation of Stimuli. —Vox sight, it is probably best to 
use two Masson discs, the one showing grey on white (black 
radius), the other grey on black (white radius). For sound, we 
may take the ticking of a watch, or the continuous hiss of the 
flame of a Bunsen burner : if the experiments are performed 
very early in the morning or late at night, the gas-pressure will 
be constant. For touch, some form of the interrupted current 
may be employed (Lange, 401 ; Lehmann, 77). —In every case, 
the intensity of stimuli and, in the case of sight, the magnitude 
of the stimulus-difference should be varied (Marbe, 622, 624). 
(b) Variation of Registration. — We have noted two modes 
of registration : a continuous following of the course of atten¬ 
tion by pressure on the rubber bulb, and a sharp demarcation 
of periods of disappearance from periods of disappearance by 
pressure on a pneumatic reaction-key. To these may be added 
a registration of maximal appearances only, i.e., a determination 
of the highest point on the crest of each attention wave. The 
pneumatic key will serve here ; or recourse may be had to an 
ordinary key and an electro-magnetic marker. 
[N. Lange, who was the first systematically to investigate the 
fluctuations of attention, and who worked by the last-named 
method, found that the attention period (the time-interval from


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