Readings in Perception

By David C. Beardslee; Michael Wertheimer | Go to book overview

Preface

PERCEPTION IS one of the oldest areas of research in experimental psychology. Since before Aristotle it has been a substantial part of general psychology. Less than a hundred years ago sensation and perception were experimental psychology, and today perception is still regarded as one of the three fundamental research topics, along with motivation and learning. Yet the contemporary student has to look in many different books and journals if he wants to get an understanding of this field, and much of the material is in foreign languages.

There are, it is true, several recent excellent texts on sensory psychology and handbook chapters on human sensation and perception, but these do not include sufficient treatment of perception for even a one-semester course. None of them, for example, covers more than a fraction of the topics suggested for a "core course" in perception by Buxtonet al. in Improving Undergraduate Instruction in Psychology.

In bringing material together in this book, we have tried to select some important papers and arrange them in a sequence which presents the contemporary understanding of "why things look as they do." In such a form these readings are intended to serve as a supplement to or in lieu of a text for a one- or two-semester course in the psychology of perception. Admittedly, work in perception has not yet yielded as organized and quantitative a set of laws as is available in sensory psychology. Yet the number of principles of perceptual processes which emerge from such a collection is encouraging, even though in many ways they are incomplete.

We have selected studies that we feel represent the core of the experimental psychology of perception upon which so much current personality, motivation, and social psychological research builds. But even though the resurgence of interest in perception today is partly due to the more personological fields of psychology, we have restricted our selection of perceptual work in related fields such as personality, comparative psychology, and applied psychology to ar-

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