Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Learning to See

Academic journal article Attention, Perception and Psychophysics

Learning to See

Article excerpt

VISUAL PERCEPTION

Ostrovsky et al. (2009). Visual parsing after recovery from blindness. Psychol Sci, 20, 1484.

William James commented that an infant's view of the world must be a "blooming, buzzing confusion." But understanding how we proceed from the confusion to mature visual perception is notoriously difficult. Not only is it challenging to test the perceptual abilities of infants, it is also hard to disentangle maturational ("nature") causes of perceptual abilities from experiential ("nurture") causes. Unique and useful observations can come from congenitally blind patients whose sight is later restored, but such patients are extraordinarily rare. Remarkably, Ostrovsky et al. located three such patients in India and tracked their ability to perceive perceptual groups. To assess the patients' ability to perceptually organize the visual world, the researchers tested them on straightforward visual parsing tasks. One set of tasks measured static parsing by showing to the patients line drawings of geometric shapes or shaded shapes that were either separate or overlapping. When asked how many objects were present, the patients were only able to report the number of objects accurately when the shapes were spatially separated. When the shapes overlapped, the patients were unable to report the number of objects. …

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