The Research Context
Arnhem, 23-06-1981 

This paper originated after a conversation with Gé Calis about the Homunculus-problem. In this conversation Gé set the path to the following outline of the research context. We had this conversation in the corridor of the psychological laboratory in Nijmegen. The same corridor I saw Gerard Leckie came by. Gerard Leckie was murdered a year later in Suriname on the eight of december 1982.

I want to thank John Siddle for correcting the English text and his critical remarks about the text.


In this paper the research-context is analysed in terms of the researcher's point of view and the subject's point of view.

The word Answer is used instead of the word Response in order to avoid simple associations with the S-R paradigm.

Fig. 1  Task-situation.
Imagine a Perceiver (P) sitting behind a small desk and an Observer (0) watching the scene (fig. 1).
On the desk we see a bottle of wine (a), a packet of cigarettes (b), a glass(c), and an ashtray (d).


0: Can you tell me what there is on the table?
P: A bottle of wine, a glass, a packet of cigarettes and an ashtray.
0: Ok, is there anything else?
P: No.
0: Fine.

Now the observer changes the situation a little and blindfolds our perceiver (B). The following conversation ensues:

0: Tell me what there is on the table?
B: a,b,c,d.
0: Are you sure?
B: I think I am, but I will just check again.

Our perceiver puts her/his hands on the table and carefully reaches for the objects:

B: a,b,c,d.
0: Is there anything else?
B: I'll just have another check.
B: No.
0: Fine.

After a while the observer asks the same questions, receiving
in all probability the same answers (if provided, of course, the perceiver has had the stamina and patience to continue).

0: Is there anything else on the table?
B: No.
0: Did you notice any changes?
B: No.
O: Fine.

This conversation can be repeated ad nauseam, until the perceiver is on the brink of total boredom.

After a short break, the observer puts, unnoticed by the still blindfolded perceiver, another object on the table. The blindfolded perceiver is then asked if she/he is willing to continue with the experiment.

O: Tell me once again what there is on the table?
B: a,b,c,d.
0: Are you sure?
B: I'll just have another check
B: a,b,c,d
0: So there is nothing else?
B: Certainly not ...oh just a second ...

At this moment the perceiver's fingers come into contact with an object that was not there before. This gives rise to a certain amount of amazement and excitement, and the conversation continues:

B: There is something else!
0: Tell me what it is.
B: I don't know: it feels like... is it e?
0: No.
B: is it z... no it is dh?
O: warm
B: it h?
0: It is indeed. The experiment is now f1n1shed, and I would like to thank you for your co-operation.

Discussion of the task-situation
Fig. 2.  Summary of the Task-situation.
In comparing the perceiver P and B situation we see that both ways of perceiving lead to the same result: ie. knowledge of the situation Sl (fig. 2).
After repeating the same procedure within the perceiver B-situation, we see that as soon as B is fully cognizant of the facts, there is a diminishing of attention (habituation). The situation is known, so no further checking is necessary. Attention can now be turned towards something else. This drop in attention happens within this constricted task-situation (enforced by the observer). If the observer were to play no active part in the discussion, our perceiver would in all probability leave the table and do something else. Let us now consider situation S2.

Our Perceiver's actions are based upon knowledge of situation S1. She/he expects the following: the bottle over there, the glass next to it and so on. Besides the four objects. there will be simply an empty table-top. Not having noticed the change that occurred from S1 to S2, our perceiver, after identifying (the four objects, fails to explore any further. At this moment the observer asks: "Is there anything else?" The blindfolded perceiver checks the rest of the table. His/her expectation is: I will feel the table beside the objects. Suddenly our perceiver reaches the discovery:

No table!

A negative Answer to the Question: table here? Answer no!
Expectation violated. Conclusion: something has changed.

From the observer's point of view we can say: s/he touches h, speaking in terms of the object h.
From the perceiver's point of view we can (must) describe the same situation as: no table here! Or old knowledge is not suitable any more. So we cannot speak of an object here.

These two points of view are essentially different!

If we leave out the observer's question: what is it? the perceiver has in fact 2 possibilities:
-either she/he tries to build up new knowledge, in other words she/he has to explain the change
-or s/he leaves it at that and turns her/his attention to something else (probably something known)

Let us concentrate on the first alternative. The perceiver is going to build up new knowledge. In doing so our perceiver is confronted with an infinite number of alternatives; it could be anything. The problem for the perceiver is to find a way in order to arrive at an answer that is in
correspondance with h (fig. 3).

Let us compare two alternatives:

-the perceiver gives as the first answer: h
-the perceiver gives a series of answers, some wrong, some containing correct elements and finally the right answer: h

                ? ....... h
                ? ....e....q....z....jh.....jhhh......h

Fig. 4. Two alternatives.

In the first situation we could say that the perceiver gives the Answer at-once (one-step), immediately.
In the second situation the Answer is reached by means of a number of intermediate steps (multi-step).

Are both situations really different?

Does the second situation explain for example more than the first one? 

In the first situation there is a Question and an Answer. We have to guess what happened in-between (something must have happened if we think of the infinite number of alternatives). In fact this situation describes a problem to be solved: How to get from Question to Answer?

In the second situation we have a Question and a number of Answers. One could reason that by examining the in-between Answers, we could form an idea of how the perceiver manages to come from Question to the right Answer.

One idea could be that the information the perceiver realizes is in the beginning very global, becoming more and more specific with each step until 'the picture' is clear and the Answer can be given. We could say that we now have a more complex, a fuller description of the problem, but there is still the same problem to be solved! In fact the Question side shifts to the right(Answer) side, until we reach the same situation as described above (fig. 5).

? ......e....q......z....ih....jhh.......h

Fig. 5. The Question-Answer shift.

Vice versa, if we look at the first Answer after the initial Question, we find ourselves in the same situation as described in the first alternative.
And similarly with all the in-between steps; they do not explain the problem they describe it.

We can define these as one-step or process-closed approaches.
Page 2
Page 3