A Model of Visual Perception Useful for Designers and Artists

Article excerpt


This research was derived from a motivation to understand visual perception, as a teacher in Visual Literacy and Color Design in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I have noticed that students, typical teenagers and young adults, would always like to "break the rules" of design and art, which I always supported. Yes, supported for the sake of creativity, and I would tell them, "as long as you know what you are doing, and are aware of the nature of the eye." Looking at their confused faces, I would then explain myself using visual perception references.

Now, when we take a look at the visual perception literature, we find a huge range of authors, sometimes providing contradicting information. We find writings about visual perception in psychology, both experimental and physiological, in neuroscience and in art & design. Often, art and design authors refer to visual perception in an informal manner, using terms such as optical illusions or optical games, making no reference to scientific data.

In this paper, a model was devised that would take into account the relevant findings from the psychological approaches to perception, both experimental as well as physiological (including the most recent findings on neuroscience) and unite these approaches to the traditional visual literacy approaches used in art and design. This model can be useful for the production, analysis and interpretation of images as it can differentiate processes of perception according to their origins and outcomes.

This paper is organized in six sections. The first section presents an overview of the research background on visual perception; the second section presents the proposed model, followed by two sections discussing the necessity of this model, both from the psychological/neurological and art/design points of view. The following section describes a typical example of a mistake made by students in visual literacy, related to the model. The last section presents an important relationship intrinsic to the proposed model.

Visual Perception

In this section, a brief overview of visual perception from the psychological and neurological points of view will be presented, citing some major selected authors.

Visual Perception In Psychology

In the 19th century, perception was studied as a passive stamping done by exterior stimuli on the retina. It would then reach the visual cortex, the zone of the occipital cortex that receives stimuli generated in the retina, resulting in an identical image (isomorphic) as the primary stimulus.

Modern psychology refutes this notion and views perception as an active process that involves the search for corresponding information, the differentiation of essential aspects of an image, the comparison of these aspects with each other, the formulation of appropriate hypotheses and the comparison of these hypotheses with the original data (Bruner, 1957; Leontiev, 1959; Luria, 1981; Vygotsky, 1956; 1960; Zaporozhets, 1967; 1968). Familiar and non-familiar images can be differentiated by longer or more contracted paths of perception (Luria, 1981).

Telford (1970) differentiated sensation from perception in that the first comprises a simple conscience of the dimensions of experience, whilst perception implies the sensation and the meanings that are attributed to the experience. Thus, for this author, the determinants of perception are: context, constancy, distance, perspective, interposition, brightness, position, direction, accommodation, convergence motivation, emotion, and personality.

Theories about perception tend to emphasize the role of either sensory data or knowledge in the process. Some theorists have adopted a data-driven or bottom-up stance, or synthetic approach, according to which perception is direct: visual data are immediately structured in the optical array prior to any selectivity on the part of the perceiver proposed by Hering (1850), Gestalt theories, and Gibson (1979). …


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