Lecturer's Précis - Frank (1963)

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First published online 11:43 GMT 7th March 2002, Copyright Derek J. Smith (Chartered Engineer). This version [HT.1 - transfer of copyright] dated 12:00 13th January 2010

This is a combination and rewrite of material previously published in Smith (1997a) and Smith (1997b).


Frank's (1963) "Organogramm"

Generally speaking, cognitive modellers have had more success determining the direction and general nature of mental information flows than in deciphering the neural code used or quantifying the amount of information being transmitted. Cognitive psychologists seem to prefer a looser, common sense, definition of information, namely that it is knowledge of a sort, and seems to flow down axon tracts the way water flows down pipes. One of the few models to stray from this common sense, hydraulic, view of information is Helmar Frank's (1963) Organogramm, reproduced below. This combines the structural shape of the standard five-box A-shaped hierarchy with the bit-estimating (ie. quantified) approach of workers such as Klemmer and Frick (1953) and Fitts and Pollack (1954), an avenue of enquiry which was so effectively popularised by George Miller's paper "The magical number seven, plus or minus two" (Miller, 1956). Here is Frank's synthesis:

Frank's "Organogramm": This flussdiagramm (flow diagram) shows how information can be quantified as it flows into an organism from the outside world and is then used to initiate behaviour. Seven input channels are shown, with initially large bit flows being progressively analysed by the process of perception. Similarly, in a process entitled "signalisation", four separate output channels convert initially simple central instructions into large bit flows to the muscles. The human organism is seen as being bombarded by 100 billion bits of information per second, most of which is simply not attended to. Of that which is, the pre-perceptual visual pathway transmits 10 million bits per second, and the pre-perceptual auditory pathway 100,000 bits per second. This raw data is organised and recognised by our perceptual processes, and the resulting percepts become conscious at a rate of about 16 bits per second (note the massive reduction in channel capacity which perception allows to take place). STM can store up to 160 or so bits in an "active" state at any one time, and - if necessary - can transfer data to LTM at a rate of less than 1 bit per second.



Simplified/translated from a black and white original in Frank (1963:85; Figure 3). This version Copyright © 2002, Derek J. Smith.



Frank, H. (1963). Informationspsychologie und Nachrichtentechnik. In Wiener, N. & Schadé, J.P. (Eds.), Nerve, Brain, and Memory Models. Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Klemmer, E.T. & Frick, F.C. (1953). Assimilation of information from dot and matrix patterns. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 45:15-19.

Miller, G.A. (1956). The magical number seven, plus or minus two. Psychological Review, 63:81-96.

Pollack, I. & Fitts, L. (1954). Information of elementary multidimensional auditory displays. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 26:155-158.

Smith, D.J. (1997a). Human Information Processing. Cardiff: UWIC. [ISBN: 1900666081]

Smith, D.J. (1997b). The magical name Miller, plus or minus the umlaut. In Harris, D. (Ed.), Proceedings of the First International Conference on Engineering Psychology and Cognitive Ergonomics (Volume 2). Aldershot: Ashgate. [ISBN: 0291398472] [Being the transcript of a paper presented 24th October 1996 to the First International Conference on Engineering Psychology and Cognitive Ergonomics, Stratford-upon-Avon.]