Ernst Heinrich Weber

Ernst Heinrich Weber (1795–1878), a contemporary of Johannes Müller, was born in Wittenberg, the son of a theology professor. He was the third of 13 chil- dren. Weber obtained his doctorate from the Uni- versity of Leipzig in 1815 and taught there until his retirement in 1871. Weber was a physiologist who was interested in the senses of touch and kinesthesis (muscle sense). Most of the research on sense per- ception before Weber had been confined to vision and audition. Weber’s research consisted largely in exploring skin and muscle sensations. Weber was among the first to demonstrate that the sense of touch is not one but several senses. For example, what is ordinarily called the sense of touch includes the senses of pressure, temperature, and pain. Weber also provided convincing evidence that there is a muscle sense. It was in regard to the muscle sense that Weber performed his work on just noticeable differences, which we will consider shortly.


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Touch and Kinesthesis. For the sensation of touch, Weber attempted to determine the least Ernst Heinrich Weber second condition, the subject lifted the hands with the weights on them. In this condition, the subject’s judgments were made on the basis of both tactile and kinesthetic sensations. It was found that subjects could detect much smaller weight differences when they lifted the weights than they could when the weights were simply placed on their hands. Weber thought that it was the involvement of kinesthesis in the lifted-weight condition that provided the greater sensitivity to weight differences.

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