Alistair Isaac


University of Edinburgh

Dimensions of Understanding: Constructing Perceptual Qualities through Low-Dimensional Measurement

In the first decades of the 20th century, a tension emerged between three competing constraints on psychophysical research: 1. the demand for increased empirical precision; 2. a theoretical commitment to decomposing complex sensations into primitive components; and 3. a pragmatic pressure for ease of visualization and communication of data. I argue that this tension motivated the operationalization of perceptual qualities in terms of measurement into low-dimensional spaces.