Do You See What I See?

Visual perception is how the information transmitted from the eyes is sent to the brain and understood by us. Psychologist still debate on how much perception relies on the information we receive from a stimulus. There are two main theories to how we perceive things.

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Top-Down Processing

This type of perception relies on prior knowledge. The theory is that we see something and begin to make assumptions about it based on things that we have previously learned.

Richard Gregory believed that by the time information got from the eye to the brain about 90% of it was lost already. This leaves us with 10% to work with. He believed that we perceive the world around us by using that 10%, contextual clues, and prior knowledge.

Necker Cube

This cube is used to support the theory of top-down processing. When you look at the cube you see a visual illusion. This is because of errors in processing. The reason we have two perceptions of the cube is because our brains have developed two equally plausible hypotheses and cannot decide between the two.

Low angle view of pattern on wall

Bottom-Up Processing

James Gibson disagrees with Gregory and believes that we perceive the world in a more direct way. This is a linear way of processing. We see something and make sense of it by breaking down information into a more complex analysis.

Optic Flow Patterns

During World War II Gibson worked with pilots on depth perception. While working with them he discovered what he called optic flow patterns. This means that as a pilot is moving towards something it seems to be stationary while everything around that point seems to be moving away from it.

Today we know that both of these theories seem to work together to create what we perceive. Even though neither was completely right they still paved the way to our understanding of perception.

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