It seems there exists a blind spot in the field of cognitive science: What exactly is, definitively, perception?
According to an excerpt in the Vancouver Series in Cognitive Science, this question involves a complex route of reduction and reasoning. Cognitive science puts most of its efforts into investigating how one perceives–there are the objects of perception, and the products of perception. But, what is the what that enables the converting of information from the pre-perceptual state to post-perceptual state? Is perception itself, as one is actively perceiving, an event? If so, is it singular, or is it a series of reactive events? Or is state of mind? As in, you are now perceiving, and thus you are in a perceptive state of mind. And if so, is it conscious or subconscious? …
This inconclusiveness of perception rests at the fulcrum of understanding how visual information (the object of perception), is integrated with belief (the product of perception). It is difficult to assign a directional convention of perception. However, the mechanism of perception gives rise to conceptions and propositions. Concepts and propositions are essentially conclusions that an individual has convictions in after a certain perception.
Now, consider: is seeing believing? Think of times when you can actually have full conviction in something, enough to convince someone else of something, without physically seeing some sort of visual proof of it. Now without my prompting, you will probably started to also consider: does a strong enough conviction in a belief capable of producing visual information in support of it? Thus, we’re back at the enigmatic question of what goes on in perceiving?
V.S. Ramachandran’s Induced Scotomas in Human Vision experiment offers an interesting insight that eases some of the mystery of the perceptual system. It proves that what we see is not always what is there, the brain is capable of perceptual filling–generating visual images to cover a gap. How reliable is our perception if the visual system is susceptible to being auto-manipulated? This leads to a succeeding phenomenon. People often refuse to accept total confirmation of a certain belief until they see a proof. The explanation may lie in the secret workings of perception. We don’t know which order it happens, whether it is belief that causes the sight of proof, or proof causes believes, but it is possibly in the mysterious integration of these two cognitive processes that offer consolation. Maybe each process is incomplete in isolation, and each has a blind spot that only information from the other process can fulfill.
Read the full excerpt and offer your interpretation and hypothesis of perception. What can you conclude about its nature based on what your experience with behavioral reaction from visual stimulus? After all, insofar as technology currently permits, we can only make logical, philosophical reductions from outside in. Have at it.
Source: K. Akins ed., Perception, Vancouver Studies in Cognitive Science, vol. 5: Oxford University Press