The Relevance of Dissociations and the Irrelevance of Dissociationism: A Reply to Schwartz and Pritchard

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Event‐related potentials (ERPs), Visual backward masking, Dissociationism, Correlates

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This note examines Schwartz and Pritchard's critique of Donchin and Lindsley's study of the ERPs and retroactive masking. The critique is seen to be an example of the Dissociationist posture in which the failure to confirm a reported relationship between performance and ERPs is reported. The Dissociationist treats psychophysiology as an attempt to establish universally applicable correlations between performance measures and physiological measures. Such universality seems to be the necessary attribute of “physiological correlates” of psychological constructs. To demonstrate that ERPs are not correlates of perception, Schwartz and Pritchard try to show that the correlation reported by Donchin and Lindsley does not hold for U‐shaped masking functions.

Donchin and Lindsley did not, however, attempt to establish a universal correlation. Rather, they attempted to utilize the parallelism between ERPs and two‐flash interactions to test models proposed to account for retroactive masking and enhancement. That the relationship is not universal, in that there are masking phenomena wherein the correlation fails, is quite irrelevant to the purpose. The methodology used by Schwartz and Pritchard is also questioned here. Specifically, it is noted that they err in combining in one curve, data obtained with a single stimulus with data obtained with two stimuli. They are thus led by focusing on a product, the d', to the unwarranted assumption that the underlying processes are uniform.

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Psychophysiology, v. 19, issue 4, p. 457-463