Toward a New Behaviorism: The Case against Perceptual Reductionism

By William R. Uttal | Go to book overview

PREFACE

The purpose of this book is to examine the scientific basis of reductionist approaches to understanding visual perception. It is my belief that, for a variety of reasons, contemporary perceptual and cognitive science has gone off onto what can only be described as a wild-goose chase. In this book I consider some specific and general examples of this misdirection and suggest an alternative future course for our science.

For most of the last forty years I have been a student of human visual perception. I was drawn out of a graduate program in physics to the excitement of what was then called physiological psychology by the teaching of Professor Donald R. Meyer of Ohio State University. My interests were focused on the more specific area of vision by the late Professor Philburn Ratoosh . For most of my career I have taught, experimented, theorized, and written about visual sensation and perception. My technique of the moment might have been psychophysical or neurophysiological experimentation, computational modeling, or even synoptic review. In each case, my goal has always been to answer for myself one of the most persistent questions of science: How do we see? Even a brief excursion into somatosensory research was aimed at determining some general principles of sensory and perceptual research in the hope that my vision of vision could be sharpened.

My early enchantment with sensory psychophysiology (or as the field later came to be called, sensory neuroscience) was based on the possibility of explaining perceptual processes by reference to the underlying neurophysiological mechanisms. From my first days as a physiological psychologist, it seemed to me that we were on the threshold of a solution to not only the visual problem, but also the age-old question of how the nervous system

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