Vision and Mind: Modeling Mental Functions

Vision and Mind: Modeling Mental Functions

Vision and Mind: Modeling Mental Functions

Vision and Mind: Modeling Mental Functions


The usual method for studying mental processes entails taking words in linguistics -- or concepts in logic -- and establishing the connections and relationships between them. Thus, the traditional approach to semantic problems -- those of meaning and understanding -- is through language. Most researchers agree that thought and language are generated by deep-seated semantic structures determined by the structure of the brain. Until now, however, all attempts at constructing semantic models have been made on the basis of linguistic material alone, without taking brain structure into account. Analysis of these models shows them to be as inadequate as those based on the method of the black box. This book approaches the problem of the organization of higher psychological functions a different way -- by analyzing the functional organization of the neural structures that gradually form universal categories from "raw" sensory material. At the higher levels of the brain's operation, these universals correspond to the basic categories of thought and language. The visual system provides rewarding material for such an approach, both because it is relatively well researched and because it is the main source of sensory information in humans. With this in mind, this monograph examines the whole process of the transformation and description -- the coding of visual information. The most important aspect of this process is the transition from the description of visual space to the description of individual objects and the relationships between them. This transition is made possible by the existence in the visual system of various mechanisms that developed during evolution as a result of environmental influences. Written for a wide circle of investigators in disciplines associated with different aspects of the functioning of the brain -- physiologists and psychologists -- this book is also of importance to engineers and mathematicians working on the problems of artificial intelligence, and linguists and philosophers interested in the deep structures that form the universals of thought and language.


Every great advance in knowledge has extended the sphere of order and correspondingly restricted the sphere of apparent disorder in the world, till now we are ready to anticipate that even in regions where chance and confusion appear still to reign, a fuller knowledge would everywhere reduce the seeming chaos to cosmos.

--The Golden Bough (Frazer, 1911, p. 305)

The title of this book in the Russian edition is Vision and Mind, but an alternative title (and one that might correspond better to its content), would be Vision as Thought. Vision is the basic supplier of information from the external world for many animals, including primates. It has been suggested (Glezer & Tsoukkerman, 1961) that 90% of the information we obtain is transmitted through the eyes, and this intuitive evaluation rings true. Vision is not only the supplier of sensory information, however; analyzing all the facts obtained in investigations of visual perception, and the hypotheses and concepts that have come out of these investigations, has led me to propose that even the most elementary act of vision--such as the perception of a light flash--may be regarded as an act of thinking.

The flip side of this argument is that thought is actually based on vision in the first place. Consider an example from the history of science. It is well known that the difficulties connected with the introduction of new ideas during the revolution in physics at the beginning of the 20th century . . .

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