Fechner Day 2013 - Proceedings of the 29th Annual Meeting of the International Society for Psychophysics

  • Jiri Wackermann
  • Marc Wittmann
  • Wolfgang Skrandies



It is pleasure and honor to host this year’s Annual Meeting of the International Society for Psychophysics, Fechner Day 2013, in Freiburg. We feel that it is a well-deserved honor for Freiburg. Indeed, in spite of its somewhat eccentric geographic location, Freiburg occupies an important place in the map of Germany’s academic and intellectual life. Freiburg University has a long record of famous names and significant contributions to scholarship and science of not only German, but truly international dimensions.

Let us mention, first of all, Edmund Husserl’s phenomenology, a direction of thought that profoundly influenced European philosophy, but also adjacent fields of study such as psychology, anthropology, aesthetics, and finds a comeback in merging with cognitive science and conscious- ness studies. Freiburg has its place in the history of mathematics, with Ernst Zermelo and his significant contributions to the foundations of the set theory, and in natural sciences—e. g. in physics with Gustav Mie, known for his works in optics and fundamental theory of matter and gravitation; and in chemistry with Georg von He Ìve Ìsy, the founding father of nuclear medicine. Again on the side of humanities, we should also name the late Friedrich von Hayek, who is known mostly for his economical and philosophical writings, but whose original contribution to theoretical psychology, The Sensory Order, should not remain unmentioned.

Closer to and more specifically for the fields of psychophysics and sensory physiology, at least two names should be mentioned, those of Hugo Mu ̈nsterberg and Johannes von Kries.

Hugo Münsterberg (1863–1916), after his studies with Wundt in Leipzig, and then in Heidel- berg, spent four years in Freiburg before he moved (by invitation of William James) to Harvard University, USA, where he stayed until his untimely death. His Freiburg years were filled with creative research in experimental psychology and psychophysiology, as he built up his own labo- ratory which, at that time, was only the fourth experimental psychology laboratory in Germany1. If E. G. Boring named Münsterberg the “founder of applied psychology†2, it may seem a little bit high-pitched, but not unjustly exaggerated.

Johannes von Kries (1853–1928), who studied physiology and medicine at several universities in Germany and Switzerland, and spent a year with Helmholtz in Berlin, had a chair for physiology in Freiburg since 1880 for the rest of his life. He worked not only in his own fields of specialisation, muscle physiology and physiology of color vision; being a person of broad intellectual and philosophical interests, he was occupied with foundational problems of natural sciences, including theory of measurement and probability theory. On the same basis, von Kries had to become one of the most severe critics of Fechner’s concept of “measurement of sensa- tions.â€3

Surely the list of illustrious names could be continued—omissions do not imply less impor- tance!—but let us turn from historical dimensions to actual present.


Thematic diversity is a constant feature of Fechner Day conferences, and this is true for this year’s Fechner Day again. We envisage a rich program, consisting of about fifty oral and more than forty poster presentations—experimental reports, theoretical developments, and philosophi- cal or historical investigations—, authored and co-authored by no less than 160 colleagues from eighteen countries world-wide. The topics of five theme sessions range from novel treatments of traditional psychophysical problems up to recently opening fields of research. We are pleased to see contributions from the fields of applied and clinical psychophysics, and strengthening links to related disciplines of psychophysiology, neurophysiology, and cognitive neuroscience.

This rich scientific program is highlighted by two invited lectures: by Professor Gunnar Borg (University of Stockholm), discussing methodological problems of measurement of subjective ex- perience, and by Professor Gary Hatfield (University of Pennsylvania), presenting philosophical perspective on sensory experience and problems of perception in general.

A special symposium is dedicated to the intellectual legacy of Ernst Mach, the Austrian physi- cist, to commemorate the 175th anniversary of his birth (1838). Mach’s contributions to psycho- physics are well-known, but there is more. The aim of the symposium is not only to remember Mach’s experimental research in optics and acoustics, and his discoveries in the field of sensory physiology, but also to acknowledge his impact on philosophy of science and to evaluate his influence on other fields, such as Gestalt psychology, pedagogy, and didactics of science.


We wish to thank all those who helped us in conceptualizing and organizing this conference: members of the Executive Committee of the ISP (p. iii) for their ideas and suggestions, and also organizers of earlier Fechner Days for sharing their experience with us. Special thanks to our assistants for their help: Oksana Gutina, Hanna Lehnen, Anna Sarikaya, and Jakob Pacer. Also, a financial donation and administrative-technical support from the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health in Freiburg are to be thankfully acknowledged.

We wish all participants an interesting meeting, thought-provoking discussions, inspiring ex- change of ideas, and enjoyable social events. Welcome to Freiburg!

Program committee Fechner Day 2013:
Jiˇr Ìı Wackermann, Marc Wittmann, and Wolfgang Skrandies