Life, Language, Law: Essays in Honor of Arthur F. Bentley

By Richard W. Taylor | Go to book overview

V
Some Characteristics of Visual Perception*

By ADELBERT JR AMES.

WE ALL BELIEVE that when we use our eyes, we see or are aware of, what is out there. If we didn't believe this, we wouldn't dare to act and behave.

And we have reasons for believing that what we see is out there. Other persons see the same "things" we do. And we can confirm that what we see exists. For instance, look at the door in the room you are now in. You can confirm that the door you see is out there merely by walking over to it and opening it. You can confirm the details of what you see--such as color, shape, size, hardness, distance from you, etc.-- by very precise specifications and measurements. We call such specifications and measurements "scientific."

You can further confirm your belief that the door you see is out there by means of an entirely satisfactory scientific explanation. This explanation goes as follows: rays reflected from every point of the door you are looking at enter your eyes and cause the formation of characteristic images on your retinas; these images produce excitations which travel along your nerves to your brain and there give rise to your seeing the door which you are aware of. If you substitute for the door any other item seen, the explanation is similar.

Now the basic "evidence" for the widespread belief that what we see is out there and is caused by what we are looking at always consists in "correspondence" between what we see and what is out there. It is this "common sense" interpretation of perception that led Dr. Samuel

____________________
*
Published with permission of Hadley Cantril and Princeton University Press from the author's The Nature of Our Perceptions, Prehensions and Behavior: An Interpretative Manual for the Demonstrations in the Psychology Research Center, Princeton University. ( Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1955).

-93-

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