Journal article

Surveying the seen: 100 years of British vision

Wade N, Bruce V ...see all

British Journal of Psychology, vol. 92, issue 1 (2001) pp. 79-112

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Perceptual phenomena and their interpretations have fashioned the course of psychology. This article surveys how theories of visual perception and methodologies have developed during the lifetime of the British Psychological Society. The experimental study of vision was instigated by British natural philosophers in the early nineteenth century but this impetus was not maintained thereafter. Not until the 1930s and 1940s did research on perception resume in earnest within British universities. The adoption of concepts (such as schema) potentially grounded in neural organization, particularly by Bartlett and Craik, accelerated experimental, theoretical and applied vision research. From mid-century the influence of information processing models of perception became increasingly dominant, and they were often integrated with the rapidly expanding understanding of neurophysiological underpinnings. The epitome of these developments was Marr's model of vision which, in our view, marked the start of the modern era of vision research. Computers have transformed the nature of stimulus control and response measurement in perceptual experiments. More naturalistic stimuli can be presented and manipulated, and complex behavioural responses, such as patterns of eye movements, fractionated. Non-invasive recording of brain activity to visual stimulation has similarly been transformed with a variety of methods for imaging brain activity. Neuroimaging has been applied to localizing perceptual and cognitive functions and in studying patients with known deficits in visual recognition. However, the eagerness with which the computer has been adopted by perceptual psychologists is likely to be tempered by a growing awareness of the differences between viewing scenes and simulations of them.

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  • Nicholas J. Wade

  • Vicki Bruce

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