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Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See Paperback – February 17, 2000
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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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
With wit, insight and charm, Hoffman, University of California, Irvine professor of computer science, cognitive science and philosophy, explains in this spectacular volume how we use vision to construct the world around us. Hoffman does a masterful job of demonstrating that vision encompasses so much more than merely what we see, and of illustrating that much of what we see may not, in fact, exist. Presenting the 35 rules of vision that scientists claim we use to piece together our environment ("Rule 1. Always interpret a straight line in an image as a straight line in 3D"), he analyzes many common optical illusions, explains how we perceive motion, color and depth, and philosophizes about the nature of reality and perception. Throughout, Hoffman makes wonderful use of myriad photographs to demonstrate the points he is making. The photos in the chapter on motion fail, necessarily, to catch the imagination the way the others do, but an ancillary Web site allows observation of the full motion of his examples. Not only is this book an outstanding example of creative popular science but, given the many optical illusions it presents, it's also the rare book that, in line with its subject, can be thoroughly enjoyed both right side up and upside down. Twenty color and 130 b&w illustrations. Agents: Katinka Matson and John Brockman.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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What I really liked was the explanation behind optical illusions. I didn't agree with everything the author wrote, because I found with some of the exercises that my experiences differed from his. Yet what this book does show is that what we see isn't always he objective reality we'd like it to be...in fact rarely, at least through our senses, is reality objective.
If there's one complaint I had, it was that he purposely chose to leave out the citations. Granted he drew on a lot of work, but it'd be nice to trace his sources and the context of those sources. That said I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in how our senses help us construct reality.