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Sensory threshold is a theoretical concept used in psychophysics. A stimulus that is less intense than the sensory threshold will not elicit any sensation.


Several different sensory thresholds have been defined;


The concept can be applied to all senses as in:

Auditory thresholds[]

  • Auditory absolute threshold: the lowest level at which a stimulus can be detected.
  • Auditory recognition threshold: the level at which a stimulus can not only be detected but also recognised.
  • Differential threshold the level at which an increase in a detected stimulus can be perceived.
  • Auditory terminal threshold: the level beyond which a stimulus is no longer detected.

Olfactory thresholds[]

  • Olfactory absolute threshold: the lowest level at which a stimulus can be detected.
  • Olfactory recognition threshold: the level at which a stimulus can not only be detected but also recognised.
  • Differential threshold the level at which an increase in a detected stimulus can be perceived.
  • Olfactory terminal threshold: the level beyond which a stimulus is no longer detected.

Vibrotactile thresholds[]

  • Vibrotactile absolute threshold: the lowest level at which a stimulus can be detected.
  • Vibrotactile recognition threshold: the level at which a stimulus can not only be detected but also recognised.
  • Differential threshold the level at which an increase in a detected stimulus can be perceived.
  • Vibrotactile terminal threshold: the level beyond which a stimulus is no longer detected.

Visual thresholds[]

  • Visual absolute threshold: the lowest level at which a stimulus can be detected.
  • Visual recognition threshold: the level at which a stimulus can not only be detected but also recognised.
  • Differential threshold the level at which an increase in a detected stimulus can be perceived.
  • Visual terminal threshold: the level beyond which a stimulus is no longer detected.

In aviation[]

Aviation use. When related to motion in any of the possible six degrees of freedom (6-DoF), the fact that sensory thresholds exist is why it is essential that aircraft have blind-flying instruments. Sustained flight in cloud is not possible by `seat-of-the-pants' cues alone since errors build up due to aircraft movements below the pilot's sensory threshold, ultimately leading to loss of control.

  • In flight simulators with motion platforms, the motion sensory thresholds are utilised in the technique known as `acceleration-onset cueing'. This is where a motion platform, having made the initial acceleration that is sensed by the simulator crew, the platform is re-set to approximately its neutral position by being moved at a rate below the sensory threshold and is then ready to respond to the next acceleration demanded by the simulator computer.

See also[]


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