Figure

The vertical-horizontal illusion.

Given that most visual stimuli in experiments are pictures (virtual rather than real objects) and that Gibson stated that picture perception is indirect, most psychological experiments have never been relevant to the direct/indirect distinction as he construed it.

On the negative side, Gibson's direct theory of perception has attracted many criticisms. First, the processes involved in identifying invariants in the environment, in discovering affordances, in "resonance", and so on, are much more complicated than was implied by Gibson. In the words of Marr (1982, p. 30), the major shortcoming of Gibson's analysis:

results from a failure to realise two things. First, the detection of physical invariants, like image surfaces, is exactly and precisely an information-processing problem, in modern terminology. And second, he vastly under-rated the sheer difficulty of such detection.

Second, Gibson's theoretical approach applies much more to some aspects of perception than to others. The distinction between "seeing" and "seeing as" is useful in addressing this issue (Bruce et al., 1996). According to Fodor and Pylyshyn (1981, p. 189):

What you see when you see a thing depends upon what the thing you see is. But what you see the thing as depends upon what you know about what you are seeing.

This sounds like mumbo jumbo. However, Fodor and Pylyshyn illustrated the point by considering someone called Smith who is lost at sea. Smith sees the Pole Star, but what matters for his survival is whether he sees it as the Pole Star or as simply an ordinary star. If it is the former, then this will be useful for navigational purposes; if it is the latter, then he remains as lost as ever. Gibson's approach is relevant to "seeing", but has little to say about "seeing as".

Third, Gibson's argument that there is no need to postulate internal representations (e.g., memories; 2y-D sketches) to understand perception is flawed. Bruce et al. (1996) cited the work of Menzel (1978) as an example of the problems flowing from Gibson's argument. Chimpanzees were carried around a field, and shown the locations of 20 pieces of food buried in the ground. When each chimpanzee was released, it moved around the field efficiently picking up the pieces of food. As there was no information in the light reaching the chimpanzees to guide their search, they must have made use of memorial representations of the locations of the pieces of food.

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