Comparing Constructivist and Direct Theories of Visual Perception

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Comparing Constructivist and Direct Theories of Visual Perception

Two of the main theories of visual perception are constructivist and

direct. Gregory is associated with the constructivist theory, while

Gibson supports the direct theory. The both theories differ in their

explanation of perception, however there are some aspects that relate


Gregory's theory is a top down theory of perception, in the sense that

he considers prior knowledge and experience to be crucially important

in making sense of what we see. "Perception is not determined simply

by stimulus patterns. Rather, it is a dynamic searching for the best

interpretation of the available data..... which involves going beyond

the immediately given evidence of the senses." is how Gregory saw

perception in 1966. However, Gibson, with others such as Marr is

concerned with perception in every day life rather than the perception

of laboratory diagrams and other out of sort stimuli. Gibson believes

that perception is an active, direct process, which involves seeing

things in context and not in a vacuum. He referred to earlier theories

of perception as 'air' theories because they looked at the perception

of objects as if they were suspended in mid air without any

background. He argued that in real life objects do not occur like

that, and that they are always seen in a context, with a background.

Because of this Gibson referred to his theory as the ground theory.

To make sense of the various sensory inputs to the retina, the visual

system must draw on all kinds of evidence, such as distance cues,

information from other senses, and expectations based on past

experience. F...

... middle of paper ... becomes increasingly important. As put by

Neisser in 1976, in most circumstances both bottom up and top down

processes are probably needed.

Although they are similar in that they both agree that some kind of

psychological is needed to perceive and that visual perception is

mediated by light reflected from surfaces and objects. They also agree

that perception is an active process and that a perceptual experience

can be influenced by learning.


*Richard Gross and Rob Mcilveen, Psychology: A New Introduction,

Hodder & Stoughton, England, 1998.

*Nicky Hayes, Foundations of Psychology, Nelson Publishers, Surrey,


*Cara Flanagan, A-Level Psychology, Letts Educational Publishers,

London, 1994.

*Diana Dwyer & Jane Scampion, A-Level Psychology, Macmillan

Publishers, London, 1995.
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