Introduction

Some of the main contemporary cognitive theories of perception were discussed in the previous two chapters. Most of these theories are based on the assumption that perception is a complex achievement. Most theorists assume that several kinds of information processing are required to transform the mosaic of light intensities on the retina into accurate and detailed perception of the visual environment. In other words, perception is indirect in that it depends on numerous internal processes. Those (e.g., Bruner, 1957; Gregory, 1970) who have emphasised internal processes not stemming directly from the stimulus input are sometimes known as constructivist theorists.

Gibson (1950, 1966, 1979) developed an approach to visual perception in apparent conflict with most cognitive and computational theories. His is a theory of direct perception: the information provided by the visual environment is allegedly sufficient to permit the individual to move around and to interact directly with that environment without the involvement of internal processes and representations.

Those theorists who argue that perception is indirect often claim that top-down or conceptually driven processes are of importance. In contrast, Gibson and other direct theorists typically emphasise the role of bottom-up or data-driven processes in perception. It is important to consider these viewpoints, because they illuminate some major issues relating to the nature of perception.

Direct and indirect theories of perception

Direct processing theories Indirect/constructivist processing theories

• No internal representations involved • Dependent on internal processes

• Driven by bottom-up processes_• Driven by top-down processes as well as bottom-up processes

Gibson's direct theory involves an ecological approach, because of his insistence that we should study perception as it operates in the real world. In addition, he argued that perception and action are closely intertwined. Perception provides valuable information in the organisation of action, and action and movement by the organism facilitate accurate perception. Some of these issues will be addressed later.

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