Weber’s Law in Psychology (Weber-Fechner Law) & Examples

webers law in psychology examples and definition, explained below

Weber’s law, also known as Weber-Fechner law, explains that perception of intensity of a stimulus grows at a slower rate than the actual physical intensity. When dealing with intense stimuli (high initial intensity), larger changes are necessary for stimulus discrimination detection than those with less sensitive ones. 

For example, imagine holding two weights – one weighing 100g and another weighing 110g. It would be challenging to differentiate the weight between them since they’re nearly similar regarding mass/weight. 

Suppose we take another example where one weight measures 1g while the other is about 11g. Here, it becomes easier to pick up differences between them due to their higher overall change in relation to the initial anchoring intensity.

The minimum point at which a change is noticeable in any situation is referred to as the difference threshold.

Weber’s law provides crucial fundamentals on how people perceive and react to stimuli in their environments. It’s useful across different fields like sensory psychology, product design, and marketing research.

Definition of Weber’s Law in Psychology

Weber’s law is a principle in psychology that indicates the relationship between the intensity of a stimulus and the minimum amount of change required to detect a difference in that stimulus (Pednekar et al., 2023). 

According to this law, the change in the stimulus must be proportional to its initial intensity. This means that larger changes are required to detect small differences in intense stimuli, while smaller changes can be detected easily in less intense stimuli.

Hesser and colleagues (2021) claim that:

“Weber’s law states that humans’ ability to perceive a change in a sensory attribute of a stimulus is inversely proportional to the initial magnitude of this attribute” (p. 3).

The formula for Weber’s Law is ΔI/I = k, where ΔI represents the smallest noticeable difference, I represent stimulus intensity, and k is known as Weber’s constant (Zeng, 2020).

For example, if you were holding an object weighing 100 grams and were asked to sense when it becomes heavier by 10 grams (ΔI), according to Weber’s Law, this would be noticeable only if it constituted 10% (k) of its original weight (Stimulus Intensity).

“Weber’s law, or approximate Weber’s law, has been observed in the perception of stimulus features such as weight, length, brightness, number, reward magnitude, time, loudness, etc.” (Namboodiri et al., 2014, p. 2).

Weber’s law has significant implications for our understanding of human sensory memory and perception and has helped uncover important factors concerning our ability to detect meaningful environmental changes.

Simply, Weber’s Law states that the minimum amount of change needed to detect a difference in intensity is proportional to the initial intensity. 

10 Examples of Weber’s Law in Psychology

  • Weight perception: When lifting a weight of 100 grams, a person would need to add an additional 10 grams before noticing the difference due to Weber’s Law. However, if the weight was already 1000 grams, then a person would need to add an additional 100 grams before noticing the difference.
  • Sound perception: If a sound is played at low volume, an increase of just one decibel may be perceived as a significant change. However, if the initial sound was already loud, it would take more than one decibel to notice a change due to Weber’s Law.
  • Brightness perception: The minimum noticeable difference in brightness between two lights depends on the intensity of the initial light source. The brighter the initial source of light, the greater the amount of change needed to detect a difference.
  • Taste perception: Changes in sweetness and bitterness can be detected more easily when starting with low-intensity flavors and less easily with high-intensity flavors.
  • Smell perception: According to Weber’s law, larger differences are required between more concentrated and perceptible odors for people to detect changes than between less intense ones.
  • Visual field perception: Two points in close proximity will require greater distance between them before they can be individually perceived there during movement or touching.
  • Time perception: People are better able to detect small differences in time intervals when those intervals are short compared with longer intervals where larger changes are required for detection.
  • Vibration perception: According to Weber’s law, a smaller vibration is needed compared to higher amplitude vibrations for humans to perceive the difference as we shift from low intensity towards high-intensity vibrations.
  • Pain perception: When individuals are initially exposed to mild pain stimuli like pin-pricks or gentle touches, even small increases in intensity can be noticeable and detected as changes. However, when the intensity of the pain stimulus is already high (e.g., from shocks or burns), significantly greater changes are needed to be perceived as different, as the pain detection rates are already near their maximum levels.
  • Electric shock perception: At low levels of electric stimulation, people require large changes to detect differences, and then when we move close to the threshold, a relatively small increase caused by an electrical charge may already be noticeable due to Weber’s Law.

Origins of Web-Fechner Law

The Weber-Fechner Law was formulated collaboratively in the 19th century by two German scientists named Ernst Heinrich Weber (1795-1878) and Gustav Theodor Fechner (1801-1887) (Wagemans, 2015).

Weber, an anatomist, and physiologist, first discovered a constant ratio between the smallest noticeable differences in stimuli (such as weight, brightness, or sound volume) to their initial intensities. 

He found that this ratio remained consistent for different types of sensory input regardless of which sensory organ was involved indicating that there might be a general principle behind it (Wagemans, 2015).

Fechner, on the other hand, initially worked on philosophy before becoming interested in psychology and the experimental methods used to investigate it (Wagemans, 2015).

He read Weber’s work on sensory perception and decided to expand this principle by applying mathematical formulas to quantify the relationship between physical quantity (e.g., stimulus intensity) and subjective perceptions like hearing loudness.

Together Weber and Fechner conducted experiments on human subjects with sub-threshold stimuli (stimuli barely detectable at all). 

In their study, the researchers hypothesized the existence of multiple threshold levels at which individuals could perceive the stimuli (Wagemans, 2015).

However, they observed remarkable variation among individuals in terms of their perception of detection thresholds. These findings suggest significant individual differences in sensitivity when it comes to perceiving these stimuli.

Weber and Fechner were inspired to create mathematical equations that used logarithmic scaling to link physical stimuli with psychological sensations based on precision data collected from experiments, known as psychophysical data.

They came up with the Weber-Fechner Law, which states that perceived magnitude increases proportionally with the logarithm of physical size (Algom, 2021).

This suggests that the mind/brain system of humans and animals has fundamental structural properties related to abilities such as acuity or stimulus discrimination.

To summarize, Weber’s experiments led to an empirical rule on perceptual sensitivity based on the physical properties of stimuli. At the same time, Fechner took it a step further by formulating the Weber-Fechner Law. 

Application of Weber-Fechner Law in Psychology

The Weber-Fechner Law has several clinical and experimental psychology applications – from psychophysics to cognitive neuroscience.

Some of these applications are:

1. Psychophysics

The study of the relationship between physical stimuli and subjective experience is central to the Weber-Fechner law application in psychology. 

This law is used in psychophysical experiments that aim to determine the amount of stimulation required for an individual to detect a change in stimuli (e.g., visual, auditory, or tactile) (Johnson et al., 2002).

For example, psychophysicists use this law to determine auditory sensation levels, wherein electrical impulses are measured when different sounds occur at varying intensity levels.

2. Pain Management

Weber-Fechner law can be used in pain management where bodily sensations respond linearly as stimulus intensities change by using similar magnitude scales as determined through experimentation (Baliki et al., 2009).

For example, doctors use the Weber-Fechner Law principles to understand dosage limits for patients with high pain tolerance since they might need higher doses compared to individuals with lower sensitivity levels.

3. Marketing Research

The Weber-Fechner Law has practical applications in understanding how people perceive changes in various marketing-related aspects such as advertisements, brand messaging, environmental cues, and merchandise prices. 

It is supported by empirical evidence indicating that many psychological dimensions, if not all, exhibit logarithmic relationships that vary individually based on personal experiences and other factors influencing perception (e.g., age, context, expectations) (Malhotra, 2017).

Companies frequently use the Weber-Fechner Law to conduct market research and test various parameters among groups or cohorts. 

By doing so, they can identify specific groups of individuals who exhibit high sensitivity towards certain aspects, such as aroma or loudness, among other categories. 

This information enables marketers to tailor their advertising strategies accordingly, ultimately increasing sales by effectively targeting potential customers’ preferences.

4. Cognitive Neuroscience

In the field of cognitive neuroscience, researchers extensively utilize quantitative methods derived from the Weber-Fechner theory, particularly in areas related to perception and cognition. 

One such method is signal detection theory, which utilizes psychometric data to examine discriminability thresholds concerning sensory experiences (Uttal, 2022).

For example, in the domain of psychoacoustics, researchers focus on strategies to reduce background noise and improve hearing abilities in individuals. 

These strategies aim to restore attention and focus while effectively balancing selective response channels to facilitate rapid information processing.


Weber’s law has become a significant principle in the field of psychology that is continuously used to understand human sensory perception. 

The law holds that the ability to detect changes depends on the stimulus’s strength and an individual’s own sensitivity to that stimulus. 

Ernst Heinrich Weber discovered this relationship first, with Gustav Theodor Fechner expanding it into a theoretical framework.

The application of Weber’s law in psychology spans various domains, such as psychophysics, pain management, marketing research, and cognitive neuroscience. 

Researchers have made significant strides in developing better strategies to quantify perceptual sensitivity by applying mathematical concepts derived from the law. 

This knowledge has helped scientists understand how humans perceive stimuli and benefitted individuals by developing intervention strategies for improving different sensory experiences.


Algom, D. (2021). The Weber–Fechner law: A misnomer that persists but that should go away. Psychological Review128(4), 757–765.

Baliki, M. N., Geha, P. Y., & Apkarian, A. V. (2009). Parsing pain perception between nociceptive representation and magnitude estimation. Journal of Neurophysiology101(2), 875–887.

Hesse, C., Harrison, R. E., Giesel, M., & Schenk, T. (2021). Bimanual grasping adheres to Weber’s law. I-Perception12(6), 204166952110545.

Johnson, K. O., Hsiao, S. S., & Yoshioka, T. (2002). Review: Neural coding and the basic law of psychophysics. The Neuroscientist8(2), 111–121.

Malhotra, N. (2017). Review of marketing research. London: Routledge.

Namboodiri, V. M. K., Mihalas, S., & Hussain Shuler, M. G. (2014). A temporal basis for Weber’s law in value perception. Frontiers in Integrative Neuroscience8.

Pednekar, S., Krishnadas, A., Cho, B.-G., & Makris, N. C. (2023). Weber’s Law of perception is a consequence of resolving the intensity of natural scintillating light and sound with the least possible error. Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences479(2271).

Uttal, W. R. (2022). The Uttal tetralogy of cognitive neuroscience. London: Psychology Press.

Wagemans, J. (2015). The Oxford handbook of perceptual organization. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Cop.

Zeng, F.-G. (2020). A unified theory of psychophysical laws in auditory intensity perception. Frontiers in Psychology11.

Viktoriya Sus

Viktoriya Sus (MA)

+ posts

Viktoriya Sus is an academic writer specializing mainly in economics and business from Ukraine. She holds a Master’s degree in International Business from Lviv National University and has more than 6 years of experience writing for different clients. Viktoriya is passionate about researching the latest trends in economics and business. However, she also loves to explore different topics such as psychology, philosophy, and more.

Website | + posts

This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *