262 pages, 129 illustrations
The First Edition of this provocative book reviewed a broad range of evidence leading to the conclusion that the visual system does not reveal the physical world by an analysis of retinal images and their representation by the visual system. Rather, what we see is based on the history of the species and the individual as a means of contending with the inherent uncertainty of light stimuli. It follows that visual perceptions are reflexive manifestations of past behavioral success rather than the result of a logical processing of present stimuli.
These ideas were met with considerable skepticism. To quote from the preface of this new edition:
"Although the ideas and evidence about the genesis of what we see in the First Edition were appreciated in some quarters, the reception in others was distinctly cool. Given the opinion of some critics that the wholly empirical concept of vision we proposed was either unbelievable or incomprehensible, we felt duty bound to try again. Our objective was, and remains, to present a different and seemingly inevitable framework for understanding perception and its underlying neural mechanisms. . We hope this new edition will encourage more readers to consider this concept of vision and its implications for interpreting, modeling, and ultimately understanding the structure and function of the human visual system."
This refinement and expansion of the argument in the First Edition, supported with much new evidence gathered over the last seven years, has far-reaching consequences not only for understanding vision but brain function generally.
The book is written in a way that is understandable by individuals with little or no background in neuroscience, with chapter introductions and summaries that make the overall argument easy to follow. The book includes over 400 bibliographic citations, a complete glossary, and a primer on the organization of the visual system as an appendix.
In their book, Purves and Lotto present a nontraditional perspective on understanding visual perception. It is comprehensive and provocative, and perhaps most important, provides a critical review of approaches to understanding visual perception that are based on the processing of representations or images. As a result, it is worth reading, especially by researchers who would like to reverse the trend of perception being given short shrift in vision research. One of the great strengths of the approach that Purves and Lotto develop is that it is consistent with recent theories of evolution and learning that stress the plasticity of the nervous system [...].
- Jeffrey B. Wagman, PsycCRITIQUES
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