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Abstract: We present select examples of how visual phenomena can serve as tools to uncoverbrain mechanisms. Specifically, receptive field organization is proposed as a Gestalt-like neural mechanism of perceptual organization. Appropriate phenomena, such as brightness and orientation contrast, subjective contours, filling-in, and aperture-viewed motion, allow for a quantitative comparison between receptive fields and their psychophysical counterparts, perceptive fields. Phenomenology might thus be extended from the study of perceptual qualities to their transphenomenal substrates, including memory functions. In conclusion, classic issues of Gestalt psychology can now be related to modern
Abstract: Neurophysiological investigations of the visual system by way of single-cell recordings have revealed a hierarchical architecture in which lower level areas, such as the primary visual cortex, contain cells that respond to simple features, while higher level areas contain cells that respond to higher order features apparently composed of combinations of lower level features. This architecture seems to suggest a feed-forward processing strategy in which visual information progresses from lower to higher visual areas. However there is other evidence, both neurophysiological and phenomenal, that suggests a more parallel processing strategy in biological vision, in which top-down feedback plays a significant role. In fact Gestalt theory suggests that visual perception involves a process of emergence, i.e. a dynamic relaxation of multiple constraints throughout the system simultaneously, so that the final percept represents a stable state, or energy minimum of the dynamic system as a whole. A Multi-Level Reciprocal Feedback (MLRF) model is proposed to resolve the apparently contradictory concepts, by proposing a hierarchical visual architecture whose different levels are connected by bi-directional feed-forward and feedback pathways, where the computational transformation performed by the feedback pathway between levels in the hiararchy is a kind of inverse of the transformation performed by the corresponding feed-forward processing stream. This alternative paradigm of perceptual computation accounts in general terms for a number of visual illusory effects, and offers a computational specification for the generative, or constructive aspect of perceptual processing revealed by Gestalt theory
Abstract: A serious crisis is identified in theories of neurocomputation, marked by a persistent disparity between the phenomenological or experiential account of visual perception and the neurophysiological level of description of the visual system. In particular, conventional concepts of neural processing offer no explanation for the holistic global aspects of perception identified by Gestalt theory. The problem is paradigmatic and can be traced to contemporary concepts of the functional role of the neural cell, known as the Neuron Doctrine. In the absence of an alternative neurophysiologically plausible model, I propose a perceptual modeling approach, to model the percept as experienced subjectively, rather than modeling the objective neurophysiological state of the visual system that supposedly subserves that experience. A Gestalt Bubble model is presented to demonstrate how the elusive Gestalt principles of emergence, reification, and invariance can be expressed in a quantitative model of the subjective experience of visual consciousness. That model in turn reveals a unique computational strategy underlying visual processing, which is unlike any algorithm devised by man, and certainly unlike the atomistic feed-forward model of neurocomputation offered by the Neuron Doctrine paradigm. The perceptual modeling approach reveals the primary function of perception as that of generating a fully spatial virtual-reality replica of the external world in an internal representation. The common objections to this picture-in-the-head concept of perceptual representation are shown to be ill founded. Key Words: brain-anchored; Cartesian theatre; consciousness; emergence; extrinsic constraints; filling-in; Gestalt; homunculus; indirect realism; intrinsic constraints; invariance; isomorphism; multistability; objective phenomenology; perceptual modeling; perspective; phenomenology; psychophysical parallelism; psychophysical postulate; qualia; reification; representationalism; structural coherence
Abstract: This article explores the evolution of human attention, focusing particularly on the phylogenetic and ontogenetic implications of the work of the American social psychiatrist Trigant Burrow. Attentional development is linked to the emergence of visual perspective, and this, in turn, is related to Burrow's notion of `ditention' (divided or partitive attention). Burrow's distinction between `ditention' and `cotention' (total organismic awareness) is examined, and, expanding on this, a threefold pattern of perceptual change is identified: prototention-->ditention-->cotention. Next, ditentive visual perspective is related to binocular convergence, and the author makes use of the perspectivally ambiguous, `non-convergent' Gestalt figure known as the Necker Cube to illustrate cotention. The paper concludes by proposing that the shift from the currently pervasive ditentive pattern of awareness to a cotentive mode could have a salutary effect on human society.