Comparing Constructivist And Direct Theories Of Visual Perception

1628 words - 7 pages

Comparing Constructivist and Direct Theories of Visual Perception

Two of the main theories of visual perception are constructivist and
direct. Gregory is associated with the constructivist theory, while
Gibson supports the direct theory. The both theories differ in their
explanation of perception, however there are some aspects that relate
them.

Gregory's theory is a top down theory of perception, in the sense that
he considers prior knowledge and experience to be crucially important
in making sense of what we see. "Perception is not determined simply
by stimulus patterns. Rather, it is a dynamic searching for the best
interpretation of the available data..... which involves going beyond
the immediately given evidence of the senses." is how Gregory saw
perception in 1966. However, Gibson, with others such as Marr is
concerned with perception in every day life rather than the perception
of laboratory diagrams and other out of sort stimuli. Gibson believes
that perception is an active, direct process, which involves seeing
things in context and not in a vacuum. He referred to earlier theories
of perception as 'air' theories because they looked at the perception
of objects as if they were suspended in mid air without any
background. He argued that in real life objects do not occur like
that, and that they are always seen in a context, with a background.
Because of this Gibson referred to his theory as the ground theory.

To make sense of the various sensory inputs to the retina, the visual
system must draw on all kinds of evidence, such as distance cues,
information from other senses, and expectations based on past
experience. For all these reasons, Gregory believes that perception
must be an indirect process involving a construction based on physical
sources of energy. He says that even a minimal amount of bottom up
data can produce detailed hypothesises, which is shown in Johansson's
study in 1975, whereby in darkness, just a few lights attached to a
moving person evoke clear perceptions of people walking or dancing.
However, Gregory's theory is questioned by many. For example, if
perception is essentially constructive, then how does it gets started
and why is there such commonality among the perceptions of different
people, all of whom have had to construct their own idiosyncratic
worlds. Also, given that perception is typically accurate, it seems
unlikely that our retinal images are really as ambiguous and lacking
in detail as Gregory suggests.

Gibson disagrees with Gregory's theory, Gibson, in his theory
describes perception as being all direct, he doesn't think that there
is any need to use prior knowledge to make sense of things that we
look at. Gibson argued that the cognitive input theories of
perception, which stated that perception depended on prior knowledge,
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