Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See

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9780393319675: Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See
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"Don Hoffman . . . combines a deep understanding of the logic of perception, a gift for explaining it with simple displays that anyone can-quite literally-see, and a refreshing sense of wonder at the miracle of it all."--Steven Pinker, author of How the Mind Works

Cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman's exploration of the extraordinary creative genius of the mind's eye "has many virtues, of which sheer intellectual excitement is the foremost" (Nature). Hoffman explains that far from being a passive recorder of a preexisting world, the eye actively constructs every aspect of our visual experience. In an informal style replete with illustrations, Hoffman presents the compelling scientific evidence for vision's constructive powers, unveiling a grammar of vision - a set of rules that govern our perception of line, color, form, depth, and motion. Hoffman also describes the loss of these constructive powers in patients such as an artist who can no longer see or dream in color and a man who sees his father as an impostor. Finally, Hoffman explores the spinoffs of visual intelligence in the arts and technology, from film special effects to virtual reality. This is, in sum, "an outstanding example of creative popular science" (Publishers Weekly). 20 full-color and 130 black-and-white illustrations

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Visual intelligence, cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman writes, is the power that people use to "construct an experience of objects out of colors, lines, and motions." And what an underappreciated ability it is, too; despite the fact that the visual process uses up a considerable chunk of our brainpower, we're only just learning how it works. Hoffman aptly demonstrates the mysterious constructive powers of our eye-brain machines using lots of simple drawings and diagrams to illustrate basic rules of the visual road. Many of the examples are familiar optical illusions--perspective-confounding cubes, a few lines that add up to a more complex shape than seems right. Hoffman also takes a cue from Oliver Sacks, employing anecdotes about people with various specific visual malfunctions to both further his mechanical explanation of visual intelligence and drive home how important this little-understood aspect of cognition can be in our lives. An especially intriguing example involves a boy, blind from birth, who is surgically given the power to see. At first, he is completely unable to visually distinguish objects familiar by touch, such as the cat and the dog. Other poignant examples show clearly how image construction is normally linked to our emotional well-being and sense of place. Visual Intelligence is a fascinating, confounding look (as it were) at an aspect of human physiology and psychology that very few of us think about much at all. --Therese Littleton

About the Author:

Donald Hoffman is professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine. His writing has appeared in Scientific American and Edge, and his work has been featured in the Atlantic¸ Wired, and Quanta. He resides in Irvine, California.

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