Basic Vision: An Introduction to Visual Perception

Basic Vision: An Introduction to Visual Perception

Basic Vision: An Introduction to Visual Perception

Basic Vision: An Introduction to Visual Perception


Basic Vision: An Introduction to Visual Perception demystifies the processes through which we see the world. Written by three authors with over 80 years of research and undergraduate teaching experience between them, it leads the reader step-by-step through the intricacies of visual processing, with full-colour illustrations on nearly every page. The writing style captures the excitement of recent research in neuroscience that has transformed our understanding of visual processing, but delivers it with a humour that keeps the reader enthused, rather than bemused. The book takes us through the various elements that come together as our perception of the world around us: the perception of size, colour, motion, and three-dimensional space. It illustrates the intricacy of the visual system, discussing its development during infancy, and revealing how the brain can get it wrong, either as a result of brain damage, through which the network of processes become compromised, or through illusion, where the brain compensates for mixed messages by seeing what it thinks should be there, rather than conveying the reality. The book also demonstrates the importance of contemporary techniques and methodology, and neuroscience-based techniques in particular, in driving forward our understanding of the visual system.


This book had its beginnings rather a long time ago. Two of the authors were sitting in a bar at Chicago airport on their return to the UK from a conference in Florida. When they had finished bemoaning the miserable lot of a British academic, they turned to another favourite topic of conversation: that there simply wasn’t a textbook on visual perception that was quite right for the courses they taught. There were books that were excellent but too difficult for most undergraduates, there were books that were too boring and dull, and there were books that had some good bits and some bad bits. So, they resolved, as you do after a few beers, to write their own. Copious notes were scribbled on beer mats that day and, had either of the authors thought to pick up the beer mats when their flight was called, this book might have been published some years ago. A third author appeared later and volunteered to cook food for all three for as long as it took to write the book, which did nothing to encourage completion of the work.

The original edition of Basic Vision was published in 2006 and we have used it for our own teaching courses ever since. We have been very pleased by the reaction of students to it; astonishingly, they seem to have enjoyed the humour in the book and they appreciated the level of explanation we aimed for. The only complaints we had were that students who were not even taking the perception course were borrowing copies of the book from the library to read just for fun! The success of the original edition has meant that, despite our recalcitrant nature, the publishers were keen that we update the book and release this revised edition.

In making the revision, we have had feedback from many colleagues who have suggested various changes to the book. Some of these we have embraced but others of these went against the ‘ethos’ of what we wanted to achieve—a ‘basic’ book on vision that was fun to read. It also seemed to us that most of what we know about vision had not changed dramatically in the last five years—many of the basic processes have been known about for many years. So, this revised edition of the book represents a little remoulding, quite a bit of polishing, and the inclusion of a little of the most exciting recent developments in vision, rather than a dramatic rewrite of the book. We have tried to remove the more crass errors (and we thank our clever students and colleagues who identified more than 60 errors in the original edition!). We shall blame the remaining mistakes on each other.

As hinted at above, this revised edition would not have occurred had it not been for the bullying tactics of Oxford University Press. We thank everyone at OUP who helped us with this version of the book, especially Holly Edmundson, without whose . . .

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