Lorraine Allan
Departments of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour
McMaster University

Role of psychophysics in contingency assessment: fishing signals from a stream.

In a typical contingency assessment task, the observer is asked about the relationship between events. In a typical signal detection task, the observer is asked about the detectability of a signal. The two tasks are similar in that the information on which the decision is based is uncertain. Nevertheless the two research endeavours have progressed independently, each with its own traditions and each motivated by different theoretical perspectives. I will discuss our recent research that integrates these two lines of research and that demonstrates the value of applying a psychophysical analysis to contingency assessment. This integration makes use of a new methodology, the streamed-trial procedure, that is better suited to the study of contingency assessment than is the traditional contingency judgment task. I will discuss how a psychophysical analysis provides a better understanding of findings in the literature such as mood and age effects on contingency assessment.