1. A study of the historical development of the Weber-Fechner law shows that it fails to describe intensity perception; first, because it is based on observations which do not record intensity discrimination accurately, and second, because it omits the essentially discontinuous nature of the recognition of intensity differences.

2. There is presented a series of data, assembled from various sources, which proves that in the visual discrimination of intensity the threshold difference ΔI bears no constant relation to the intensity I. The evidence shows unequivocally that as the intensity rises,

the ratio

See PDF for Equation

first decreases and then increases.

3. The data are then subjected to analysis in terms of a photochemical system already proposed for the visual activity of the rods and cones. It is found that for the retinal elements to discriminate between one intensity and the next perceptible one, the transition from one to the other must involve the decomposition of a constant amount of photosensitive material.

4. The magnitude of this unitary increment in the quantity of photochemical action is greater for the rods than for the cones. Therefore, below a certain critical illumination—the cone threshold—intensity discrimination is controlled by the rods alone, but above this point it is determined by the cones alone.

5. The unitary increments in retinal photochemical action may be interpreted as being recorded by each rod and cone; or as conditioning the variability of the retinal cells so that each increment involves a constant increase in the number of active elements; or as a combination of the two interpretations.

6. Comparison with critical data of such diverse nature as dark adaptation, absolute thresholds, and visual acuity shows that the analysis is consistent with well established facts of vision.

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