Readings in Perception

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

Introduction

THE PAPERS in Part I of this book discuss recent knowledge about the physiological mechanisms involved in perceptual processes. They extend the coverage of the general characteristics of organismic sensitivity and the basic information on special senses available in all standard introductory texts. The nature of the sense receptors and the psychological implications of the ways in which they are connected to the central nervous system provide the framework for the understanding of complex perceptual phenomena. Later, Köhler's paper on relational determination in perception offers an alternative interpretation of the neural substrate of perception.

The active work now in progress on the effects of drugs on perceptual phenomena has not yet jelled into general principles, but the selection by Hoffer, Osmond, and Smythies points up the variety of perceptual processes affected by drugs, and the large individual differences in reactions of two subjects suggest the dangers of over- generalization. Hoagland's paper on time perception returns to body chemistry as a perceptual determinant, and Bruner's paper on perceptual readiness again attempts to integrate physiological and psychological understanding of perceptual processes.

Part II presents a brief history of the development of research methods for the study of perception. Hirsh points out that the classical psychophysical methods are not now interpreted as ways of measuring subjective events but as means for studying responses to stimulation. Nonetheless, analysis of thresholds is a central method of study of the organism's handling of stimulus input, in studies of thresholds for perception of words or sensitivity to food objects as well as in research on sensory events.

The papers in Part III deal with problems of perception of areas, figures, events, and space. This is the area in which perceptual research has been focused, the world of objects in space. An attempt has been made to present the selections in a sequence from "un-

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