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The Vision Revolution: How the Latest Research Overturns Everything We Thought We Knew About Human Vision Hardcover – June 2, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Scientist Changizi (The Brain from 25,000 Feet) kicks off this engaging romp through vision science with a list of the human eye's superpowers: "telepathy, X-ray vision, future-seeing and spirit-reading"; a "theoretical neuroscientist" trained in cognition and biology, he's not kidding. To expose these amazing abilities, and explain the whys of vision (the hows just "make my eyes glaze over"), he poses four challenging questions: "Why do we see in color? Why do our eyes face forward? Why do we see illusions? Why are letters shaped the way they are?" In his answers, Changizi challenges common notions regarding sight. Human color perception, for instance, is based around subtle changes in skin tone which correlate to blood flow, indicating emotions silently--allowing us, in essence, to read the minds of others. Binocular vision, it turns out, is not required for depth perception: in videos game, we "acrobatically navigate realistic virtual worlds as a cyclops." "Future-seeing capabilities" evolved in order to account for a one-tenth-of-a-second lag in perception. A friendly tone, colorful everyday examples and many helpful figures will draw readers--science buffs or not--down the rabbit hole of cognitive theory and keep them there, dazzled. 7 color images, 75 b&w illustrations. (June) --Publishers Weekly online, May 11, 2009

...the novel ideas that Mr. Changizi outlines in "The Vision Revolution"--together with the evidence he does present--may have a big effect on our understanding of the human brain. Their implication is that the environments we evolved in shaped the design of our visual system according to a set of deep principles. Our challenge now is to see them clearly. --The Wall Street Journal, June 19, 2009

Throughout the book, Changizi peppers his explanations with quick, fascinating visual exercises that help to drive his points home...Changizi's theories are appealing and logical, and he backs them with good circumstantial evidence.... One thing is certain: The Vision Revolution will make you wonder the next time you notice someone blush, catch a ball or finish reading a magazine page. --Scientific American MIND, July 2009

Readers, however, need not be well versed in academic debates to enjoy Changizi's lucid explanations. Filled with optical illusions and simple experiments for the reader to perform, this book may be the most fun you'll have learning about human cognition and evolution. --Jennifer Curry, Barnes & Noble Review, July 2009

"the book does present some novel hypotheses--supported by evidence, much of it from Changizi's research.... The writing style is clear and captivating; the illustrations are nicely done and helpful." --Choice Magazine, November 2009

From the Inside Flap

A radically new perspective on human vision is emerging. Groundbreaking research by evolutionary scientist and neurobiologist Mark Changizi is driving a revolution in our understanding of human vision. In asking why we see the way we do, Changizi overturns existing beliefs and provides new answers to age-old questions. Why do our eyes face forward? While binocular vision was helpful to our primate ancestors, its importance for 3-D vision is exaggerated. Squirrels jump from branch to branch just fine with sideways-facing eyes and many athletes, including Hockey Hall of Famer Frank McGee, play with only one eye. HINT: We evolved in a highly leafy environment. Why do we see in color, when most other mammals do not? It's not because it helped our ancestors find ripe fruit. Our color vision has evolved to be extremely sensitive to specific sets of color changes. HINT: Primates with color vision, like us, are the only ones who have areas of bare skin. Why do we see optical illusions? It's not the result of glitches in our visual system. Optical illusions can be traced back to the same specific property of vision. HINT: We are able to catch a ball coming at us much more effectively than we should given the speed at which our brains process visual input. Why do we absorb information so readily by reading? It's not because we've evolved to read; evolutionarily, reading and writing are recent developments. HINT: Language is designed to exploit skills we've refined over tens of millions of years. In The Vision Revolution, Changizi details the conclusions of his innovative fieldwork and their mind-blowing implications for our understanding not just of human vision, but of the way we interact with the world in which we live. You'll never see seeing the same way again.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: BenBella Books; 1 edition (June 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933771666
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933771663
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.7 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,258,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Why do we see in color? Why do our eyes face forward? Why do we see illusions? Why are letters shaped the way they are?"

Intriguing riddles such as these often necessitate interdisciplinary brilliance to solve. Theoretical biologist and neuroscientist Mark Changizi has been stockpiling research in these areas for much of the last decade, fixated on some of the fascinating but imperfectly understood precincts of human perception. Not content with asking how our central nervous system functions, Changizi is determined to provide explanations of why its architecture and inter-operative functionality exist as they do. The Vision Revolution, should it withstand the scrutiny of peer review, is a groundbreaking work in vision science that brings forward original research into the evolution of the human visual system.

In the book he pivots between four core ideas, each of which are given mystical titles:

1) Color telepathy: "Color vision was selected for so that we might see emotions and other states on the skin."

2) X-ray vision: "Forward-facing eyes were selected for so we could use X-ray vision in cluttered environments."

3) Future-seeing: "Optical illusions are a consequence of the future-seeing power selected for so that we might perceive the present."

4) Spirit-reading: "Letters culturally evolved into shapes that look like things in nature because nature is what we have evolved to be good at seeing."

Each entrée of this technical collation is truly mind-altering, and it is a joy to tag along as Mark architects the empirical struts of his developmental theses. Let's dive right in.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Changizi's book is fascinating, but in the Kindle format it's almost unreadable. In black and white, the illustrations of the human eye's unique ability to sense subtle red and blue color shifts make little sense. Plus, the illustrations aren't placed where they help explain the text. Stick with the analog, page turning, color illustrated book.
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Format: Hardcover
Changizi is undoubtedly a genius, and he writes well, being particularly adept at analogies. Still, Changizi is detailing all the evidence for his conclusions, and some of it is not very interesting.

The most unintuitive conclusion is that our eyes have evolved to detect small variations in flesh color. Yet Changizi is very convincing, particularly because of Figures 14 and 15, which show that 2 of our color cones detect almost the same wavelengths, specifically the wavelengths needed for detecting small variations in flesh color! It is not clear whether this adaptation is primarily for detecting illness, or a person's true emotion, but I would have to go with the latter, and therefore this finding supports those evolutionists who emphasize social interaction as a primary driver in human evolution.
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Format: Paperback
How many people take the time to ponder how we humans, and our animal confreres, perceive the world through vision? It seems that theoretical neurobiologists do. Why do we see in colour? Why are our eyes in front of our heads while some animals have theirs on the sides? Why are we tricked into seeing optical illusions in certain pictures? These are some of the questions which the author tries to answer in this fascinating book. His views are certainly new compared to what many of us may have been taught in school. Yet, once the author has presented his arguments and his evidence, one must admit that, in each case, he has a point. Each of the book's four chapters begins with the basics of its subject matter and progresses from there. Arguments are eventually presented as well as supporting data. Finally, detailed theoretical views are formulated which, for me anyway, required more head-scratching.

The writing style is certainly quite authoritative, friendly, generally clear and even rather lively. Regarding accessibility, as noted above, I found the chapters quite readable but becoming progressively more complex near the ends. Overall, I learned quite a bit from this book. I was also quite surprised at much of the information presented. I think that this book can be of much value to anyone with an interest in how the eye-brain system works and why it works the way it does.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Overall I found this book to provide an interesting perspective on the evolution of vision without getting overly detailed. I don't have a very good grasp of how the brain and the eyes work together, but I was able to follow along thanks to the author's ability to relate a complex phenomenon to an everyday occurrence. Although most of the information in the book was speculative, I think the author did a good job of supporting his assertions with an organized presentation of his research. The tone for most of the book was very conversational, but occasionally I felt like Changizi went on some tangents that could have been eliminated from the book. The titles of the four chapters were unclear and I kept forgetting what they meant, but thankfully the introduction provided a quick description about what each one meant. I feel like the author included the chapter names to add some personality to the book, but that it would have been better to have excluded them since he does such a great job of putting himself into the book. This book was enjoyable to read with all of the experiments and optical illusions that allow the reader to actively participate while reading; all of the figures were very well done. This book is perfect for anybody curious about vision, even if they don't have a strong scientific background. Since the information content was excellent and only minor things were distracting, I gave this book 4 stars.
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