Natural Information and the Problem of Misperception
Avant, Vol. X, No. 3/2019, doi: 10.26913/avant.2019.03.19
published under license CC BY-NC-ND 3.0
Warsaw University of Technology
International Center for Formal Ontology (ICFO)
Technical University of Munich
Munich Center for Technology in Society (MCTS)
mail @ hajo-greif.net
Published Online First 22 December 2019 Download full text
Abstract: There are two related points at which James J. Gibson’s ecological theory of visual perception remains remarkably underspecified. First, the notion of information for perception is not explicated in much detail beyond the claim that it “specifies” the environment for perception, and, thus being an objective affair, enables an organism to perceive action possibilities or “affordances.” Second, misperceptions of affordances and perceptual illusions are not clearly distinguished from each other. Although the first claim seems to suggest that any perceptual illusion amounts to the misperception of affordances, there might be some relevant differences between various ways of getting things wrong. In this essay, Gibson’s notion of “specifying” information shall be reconstructed with the help of Fred Dretske’s relational theory of information. This refined notion of information for perception will then be used to carve out the distinction between perceptual illusions and the misperception of affordances, by reference to the “Empirical Strategy” in the psychology of perception (developed by Purves et al.). It will be maintained that there are cases where perceptual illusions actually help an organism to correctly perceive an affordance. In such cases, the prima facie mistaken or malformed informational relations involved are kept intact by a set of appropriate transformation rules. Two of Gibson’s intuitions shall thus be preserved: the objectivity of informational relations and the empowerment of the organism as an active perceiver who uses those objective relations to his specific ends.
Keywords: ecological psychology; wholly empirical approach to perception; information for perception; affordance; perceptual illusions; psychology of perception
|Armstrong, D. M. (1960). Berkeley’s theory of vision. A critical examination of bishop Berkeley’s Essay towards a new theory of vision. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.|
|Berkeley, G. (1709). An essay towards a new theory of vision. Dublin: Rhames and Pepyat.|
|Boumans, M. (2013, November). Affordance affords measurement. Paper presented at “What Affordance Affords” workshop, TU Darmstadt, Germany.|
|Chemero, A. (2003a). An outline of a theory of affordances. Ecological Psychology, 15(2), 181-195.
|Chemero, A. (2003b). Information for perception and information processing. Minds and Machines, 13, 577-588.
|Costall, A. (2004). From direct perception to the primacy of action: A closer look at James Gibson’s ecological approach to psychology. In G. Bremner & A. Slater (Eds.), Theories of infant development (pp. 70-89). Oxford: Blackwell.
|de Wit, M. M., van der Kamp, J., & Withagen, R. (2019). Visual illusions and direct perception: Elaborating on Gibson’s insights. New Ideas in Psychology, 36, 1-9.
|Dretske, F. (1981). Knowledge and the flow of information. Cambridge: MIT Press.|
|Dretske, F. (1986). Misrepresentation. In R. J. Bogdan (Ed.), Belief. Form, content, and function (pp. 17-36). Oxford: Clarendon Press.|
|Fodor, J., & Pylyshyn, Z. (1981). How direct is visual perception? Some reflections on Gibson’s ‘ecological approach’. Cognition, 9, 139-196.
|Gibson, E. J., & Walk, R. D. (1960). The ‘visual cliff’. Scientific American, 202(4), 64-71.
|Gibson, J. J. (1960). The information contained in light. Acta Psychologica, 17, 23-30.
|Gibson, J. J. (1966). The senses considered as perceptual systems. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.|
|Gibson, J. J. (1970). On the relation between hallucination and perception. Leonardo, 3(4), 425-427.
|Gibson, J. J. (1971). The information available in pictures. Leonardo, 4, 27-35.
|Gibson, J. J. (1973). On the concept of ‘formless invariants’ in visual perception. Leonardo, 6(1), 43-45.
|Gibson, J. J. (1979). The ecological approach to visual perception. Reprint edition 1986. New York/Hove: The Psychology Press. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.|
|Gombrich, E., Gibson, J. J., & Arnheim, R. (1971). Exchange of letters. Leonardo, 4, 195-203.
|Heft, H. (2001). Ecological psychology in context: James Gibson, Roger Barker, and the legacy of William James’s radical empiricism. Mahwah/London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
|Kennedy, J. M., Green, C. D., Nicholls, A., & Liu, C. H. (1992). Illusions and knowing what is real. Ecological Psychology, 4(3), 153-172.
|Millikan, R. G. (2001). What has natural information to do with intentional representation? In D. M. Walsh (Ed.), Naturalism, Evolution and Mind (pp. 105-125). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
|Purves, D., Lotto, R. B., Williams, S. M., & Xang, Z. (2001). Why we see things the way we do: evidence for a wholly empirical strategy of vision. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, B, 356, 285-297.
|Purves, D., Wojtach, W. T., & Lotto, R. B. (2011). Understanding vision in wholly empirical terms. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(Supplement 3), 15588-15595.
|Reed, E. S. (1988). James J. Gibson and the psychology of perception. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.|
|Runeson, S. (1988). The distorted room illusion, equivalent configurations, and the specificity of static optic arrays. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 14(2), 295-304.
|Sayre, K. M. (1983). Some untoward consequences of Dretske’s “causal theory” of information. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 6, 78-79.
|Turvey, M. (1992). Affordances and prospective control: an outline of an ontology. Ecological Psychology, 4(3), 173-187.
|Turvey, M. (2013, November). Affordance: towards an ontology for all organisms. Paper presented at “What Affordance Affords” workshop, TU Darmstadt, Germany.|
|Turvey, M., & Shaw, R. (1979). The primacy of perceiving: an ecological reformulation of perception for understanding memory. In L.-G. Nilsson (Ed.), Perspectives on Memory Research: Essays in Honor of Uppsala University’s 500th Anniversary (pp. 167-222). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.|
|Turvey, M., Shaw, R. E., Reed, E. S., & Mace, W. M. (1981). Ecological laws of perceiving and acting: in reply to Fodor and Pylyshyn. Cognition, 9, 237-304.
|van Dijk, L., Withagen, R., & Bongers, R. M. (2015) Information without content: a Gibsonian reply to enactivists’ worries. Cognition, 134, 210-214.
|Warren, W. J. J. (1984). Perceiving affordances: visual guidance of stair climbing. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 10(5), 683-703.
|Withagen, R., & Chemero, A. (2009). Naturalizing perception: Developing the Gibsonian approach to perception along evolutionary lines. Theory & Psychology, 19(3), 363-389.
|Zhu, Q., & Bingham, G. P. (2011). Human readiness to throw: the size-weight illusion is not an illusion when picking the best objects to throw. Evolution and Human Behavior, 32, 288-293.
“Avant” journal – the task financed under the contract 711/P-DUN/2019 from the funds of the Minister of Science and Higher Education for the dissemination of science.
Czasopismo „Avant” – zadanie finansowane w ramach umowy 711/P-DUN/2019 ze środków Ministra Nauki i Szkolnictwa Wyższego przeznaczonych na działalność upowszechniającą naukę.