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date: 25 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes signal detection theory (SDT; Green and Swets, 1966) and its scientific and philosophical implications for understanding perception. Critically and nonintuitively, SDT has shown that observers’ discriminative responses (e.g. ‘I saw/did not see X’, etc.) do not straightforwardly reflect unmediated perceptual experience, but are rather the joint product of independent, separable perceptual and decision processes. SDT is the theoretical and empirical framework that established this surprising fact, thereby enabling the decomposition of observers’ discrimination responses into the underlying processes of perceptual sensitivity (d′) and the decision criterion (c). Although SDT may be profitably used for any domain involving difficult decisions (e.g. medical diagnosis), it was first primarily applied to psychophysics—that is, the relationship between various stimulus characteristics and subjective perceptual experience. Further, SDT and its implications are critical for isolating and studying conscious versus unconscious processes (perceptual and otherwise), a topic of great and growing interest.

Keywords: signal detection theory, psychophysics, conscious experience, unconscious experience, subjective experience

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