Perceptual Defence and Filter Theory


IT has been suggested by Broadbent1 that his general theory of selective processes in the human nervous system could give an account of the phenomenon of perceptual defence. His theory assumes that information entering the central nervous system can be thought of as arriving along certain ‘channels’ and that a ‘filter’ can select one (or occasionally more) channels and suppress the input along others. He has said: “It is economical for a series of stimuli to be analysed first for simple physical properties conveying little information … (if) classes of words may behave in the same way as sensory channels do … the filter might detect that a word belongs to the general class of sexual words without distinguishing which of those words it is and pass the word to the later perceptual mechanisms for more detailed analysis if the filter is set to pass sexual words. … The main factual point at which evidence seems to be needed is the question whether a class of words can act in the same way as a sensory channel”.

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  1. 1

    Broadbent, D., Perception and Communication (Pergamon Press, London, 1958).

  2. 2

    Bruce, D., Language and Speech, 1, 79 (1958).

  3. 3

    Seigel, S., Nonparametric Statistics (McGraw-Hill, New York, 1956).

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MORAY, N. Perceptual Defence and Filter Theory. Nature 191, 940 (1961).

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