Visual Reflections: A Perceptual Deficit and Its Implications

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How much can we learn about normal visual perception and cognition from a malfunctioning visual system? Quite a lot, as Michael McCloskey makes abundantly clear in this book. McCloskey presents his work with AH, a college student who has an extraordinary deficit in visual perception. When AH looks at an object, she sees it clearly and identifies it readily; yet she is often dramatically mistaken about where the object is or how it is oriented. For example, she may reach out to grasp an object that she sees on her left, but miss it completely because it is actually on her right; or she may see an arrow pointing up when it is really pointing down. AH's errors, together with many other clues, lead McCloskey to some very interesting conclusions about how we perceive the world. He develops theoretical claims about visual subsystems, the nature of visual location and orientation representations, attention and spatial representations, the role of the visual system in mental imagery, and the levels of the visual system implicated in awareness. Visual Reflections makes a fascinating and compelling case that we can often learn more about a process when it goes awry than when it functions flawlessly.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This book gives a fascinating and detailed insight into the visual world of a unique and extraordinary individual. McCloskey has assembled a plethora of careful observations showing that this apparently unexceptional person, A.H., habitually sees the world in a mirror-reversed fashion, though surprisingly without this greatly affecting her everyday life. The book challenges current accounts of visuospatial cognition and its development, as well as some current philosophical accounts of perception."— David Milner, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Durham University, and author of The Visual Brain in Action

"This book is for anyone who has marveled at the ubiquitous and fundamental nature of spatial vision and its moment by moment influence on everyday life. Michael McCloskey takes on some of the most difficult questions in this arena. How are values on spatial dimensions selected? What is the functional role of spatial reference frames on perception and action? How are spatial frames formed? What are their components? How does the brain compute them, and what are the necessary and sufficient requirements? His intriguing conclusions are based on the integration of a large body of cross-disciplinary research and his insights from single case studies. This is a journey worth taking."—Lynn C. Robertson, Veterans Administration, Department of Psychology and Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute, University of California, Berkeley

"... a sophisticated, general view or hypothesis of what must be going on that is productive and exciting."—PsycCRITIQUES

"McCloskey should be commended for his attempts to generate a new way of thinking about visual subsystems. He proposes an intriguing model that provides a neat framework for a large body of future work...Visual Reflectsion provides an extremely comprehensive account of a uniquely intriguing single-case study and is quite an enjoyable read...For anyone interested in the oddities of the human visual system, and what we can learn from developmental case studies, this book would certainly be a welcome addition to the vision bookshelf."—Perception

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195168693
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 4/14/2009
  • Series: Oxford Psychology Series
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael McCloskey is Professor of Cognitive Science at Johns Hopkins University. His research focuses on mental representation and computation in visual-spatial cognition and lexical processing. He studies cognitive deficits in children and adults with brain damage or learning disabilities, with the aim of gaining insight into normal cognitive representations and processes, and how they are disrupted when the brain is damaged or fails to develop normally. He received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from Princeton University.

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