PERCEPTION: The Worm Transformed by Lloyd Kaufman

PERCEPTION: The Worm Transformed

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While the psychology of perception has come a long way from the 19th-century psychophysics of Wundt, Eber, and Fechner, a reading of New York University psychologist Kaufman's scholarly summary of present findings leaves the reader somewhat dismayed: The more we know, the more theories abound. Moreover, the more we know is conveyed here as a college course in perception, not an armchair excursion into sensory wonders and perceptual delights. Mind you, a diligent reader can learn a lot--about present theories of color vision, about Fourier analysis of spatial forms, about current thinking on stereoscopic vision, illusions, visual dominance. . . . Half the book, indeed, is devoted to visual phenomena, followed by a major chunk on hearing and the very shortest of shrifts to touch, pain, temperature, kinesthesis, balance. (Kaufman suggests that these are areas in need of research, but his meager summary ignores some of the more exciting recent findings, especially with regard to pain.) Commendably, Kaufman emphasizes the role of active exploration in perception. He is good in discussing motion detection and the various problems of distinguishing between movement in the stimulus and movement in the beholder. And the building of internal schema or representations of the world is well presented in his last chapter. There is, however, an overall neglect of many central nervous system phenomena in terms of facilitative and inhibitory pathways, encoding and integrating processes--a neglect which appears endemic in psychology and makes psychological theories of perception generally tentative and inadequate.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1979
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press