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December 1968

Stimulus and Response, the Law of Initial Value.

Arch Neurol. 1968;19(6):637-638. doi:10.1001/archneur.1968.00480060107019

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Nevil Maskeleyne, the Fifth Astronomer Royal (1765-1811) reported that he had to dismiss an assistant, because the latter consistently found that certain time measurements differed from his own values. On reading this report the mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss, who also directed the Gottingen Observatory, got his entire staff to make similar measurements. Everyone reported different values. Perhaps Gauss was not surprised to discover these variations in reaction time, since he was also a founder of probability theory and the Gaussian distribution memorializes that contribution.

Statistical probability reflects, in general, the influence of multiple factors on a given measurement. Organisms, however, must conform to certain limits of allowable performance. The measurements therefore may be skewed because of these limitations. Furthermore, given inhibitory as well as excitatory influences at several levels there may well be qualitative as well as quantitative variations in the response to a specific stimulus. Dr. Wilder, many

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