The last half of the twentieth century witnessed dramatic changes in the theory of vision. In particular, the "eye-as-camera" metaphor that had long dominated the field no longer seemed tenable. Somewhat surprisingly, however, the metaphor has maintained its appeal in the study of pictures. In Looking into Pictures, philosophers, psychologists, and art historians explore the implications of recent theories of vision for our understanding of the nature of pictorial representation and picture perception.
Spatial competence is a central aspect of human adaptation. To understand human cognitive functioning, we must understand how people code the locations of things, how they navigate in the world, and how they represent and mentally manipulate spatial information. Until recently three approaches have dominated thinking about spatial development. Followers of Piaget claim that infants are born without knowledge of space or a conception of permanent objects that occupy space. They develop such knowledge through experience and manipulation of their environment.
The philosophy of perception is a microcosm of the metaphysics of mind. Its central problems—What is perception? What is the nature of perceptual consciousness? How can one fit an account of perceptual experience into a broader account of the nature of the mind and the world?—are at the heart of metaphysics. Rather than try to cover all of the many strands in the philosophy of perception, this book focuses on a particular orthodoxy about the nature of visual perception.
One of the most important and controversial topics in the field of visual attention is the nature of the units of attentional selection. Traditional models have characterized attention in spatial terms, as a "spotlight" that moves around the visual field, applying processing resources to whatever falls within that spatial region. Recent models of attention, in contrast, suggest that in some cases the underlying units of selection are discrete visual objects and that attention may be limited by the number of objects that can be simultaneously selected.
The goal of neurotechnology is to confer the performance advantages of animal systems on robotic machines. Biomimetic robots differ from traditional robots in that they are agile, relatively cheap, and able to deal with real-world environments. The engineering of these robots requires a thorough understanding of the biological systems on which they are based, at both the biomechanical and physiological levels.
Perceptual learning is the specific and relatively permanent modification of perception and behavior following sensory experience. It encompasses parts of the learning process that are independent from conscious forms of learning and involve structural and/or functional changes in primary sensory cortices. A familiar example is the treatment for a "lazy" or crossed eye. Covering the good eye causes gradual improvement in the weaker eye’s cortical representations. If the good eye is patched too long, however, it learns to see less acutely.
Experiences and feelings are inherently conscious states. There is something it is like to feel pain, to have an itch, to experience bright red. Philosophers call this sort of consciousness "phenomenal consciousness." Even though phenomenal consciousness seems to be a relatively primitive matter, something more widespread in nature than higher-order or reflective consciousness, it is deeply puzzling.
Suspensions of Perception is a major historical study of human attention and its volatile role in modern Western culture. It argues that the ways in which we intently look at or listen to anything result from crucial changes in the nature of perception that can be traced back to the second half of the nineteenth century.
The neurobiology and psychology of attention have much to learn from each other. Neurobiologists recognize that responses in sensory cortex depend on the behavioral relevance of a stimulus, but have few ways to study how perception changes as a result. Psychologists have the conceptual and methodological tools to do just that, but are confounded by the multiple interpretations and theoretical ambiguities. This book attempts to bridge the two fields and to derive a comprehensive theory of attention from both neurobiological and psychological data.
Recent attempts to unify linguistic theory and brain science have grown out of recognition that a proper understanding of language in the brain must reflect the steady advances in linguistic theory of the last forty years. The first Mind Articulation Project Symposium addressed two main questions: How can the understanding of language from linguistic research be transformed through the study of the biological basis of language? And how can our understanding of the brain be transformed through this same research? The best model so far of such mutual constraint is research on vision.