Lectures on Perception: An Ecological Perspective, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Lectures on Perception

An Ecological Perspective, 1st Edition

By Michael T. Turvey


432 pages

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Lectures on Perception: An Ecological Perspective addresses the generic principles by which each and every kind of life form—from single celled organisms (e.g., difflugia) to multi-celled organisms (e.g., primates)—perceives the circumstances of their living so that they can behave adaptively. It focuses on the fundamental ability that relates each and every organism to its surroundings, namely, the ability to perceive things in the sense of how to get about among them and what to do, or not to do, with them. The book’s core thesis breaks from the conventional interpretation of perception as a form of abduction based on innate hypotheses and acquired knowledge, and from the historical scientific focus on the perceptual abilities of animals, most especially those abilities ascribed to humankind. Specifically, it advances the thesis of perception as a matter of laws and principles at nature’s ecological scale, and gives equal theoretical consideration to the perceptual achievements of all of the classically defined ‘kingdoms’ of organisms—Archaea, Bacteria, Protoctista, Fungi, Plantae, and Animalia.


Michael Turvey is the leading exponent of a physical biology of intentional systems for all creatures great and nano. In these interwoven lectures, he charts a path to a thoroughly scientific psychology, grounded in philosophy, ecology, thermodynamics, and the theory of complex systems. Developed over the course of an esteemed career, Turvey’s radical vision (in the sense of going to the root) throws down the gauntlet for the next generation of students of perceiving, acting, and knowing.William H. Warren, Chancellor’s Professor of Cognitive Science, Brown University

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Part 1: Foundational Concepts

  1. What Kinds of Systems Do We Study?
  2. Organism-Environment Dualism
  3. Direct Perceiving, Indirect Perceiving
  4. Simulative, Projective and Locality Assumptions
  5. The Mechanistic Hypothesis
  6. The Cartesian Program
  7. Empiricism and the Man in the Inner Room
  8. The Space Enigmas I: Berkeley
  9. The Space Enigmas II: Kant, the Nature of Geometry, and the Geometry of Nature
  10. The Space Enigmas III: Local Signs and Geometrical Empiricism
  11. Doctrines of Sensations and Unconscious Inferences
  12. The Space Enigmas. IV: On Learning Space Perception
  13. Gestaltism I: Atomism, Anatomism and Mechanistic Order
  14. Gestalt Theory II: Fields, Self-organization, and the Invariance Postulate of Evolution
  15. Gestalt Theory III: Experience Error, CNS Error, Psycho-neural Isomorphism, Behavioral Environment
  16. Part 2: Computational-Representational Perspective

  17. The Computational-Representational Perspective: Preliminaries
  18. Pattern Recognition and Representation Bearers
  19. Turing Reductionism, Token Physicalism: The Computational System Assumption
  20. Reflections on the Physical Symbol System Hypothesis
  21. Part 3: Ecological Perspective

  22. Ecology: The Science that Reasons Why
  23. Barriers to Ecological Realism
  24. Ontology at the Ecological Scale
  25. Ecological Optics Primer
  26. Perceiving "How to Get About Among Things"
  27. The Mechanical Basis for "Getting About Among Things"
  28. Strong Anticipation and Direct Perception

About the Author

Michael T. Turvey is Board of Trustees' Distinguished Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Connecticut and a Senior Scientist at Haskins Laboratories in Connecticut. He is the recipient of Guggenheim and Catell Fellowships, the American Psychological Association Early Career Award, Fellow of Society of Experimental Psychologists (SEP), Bernstein 2009 Prize in Motor Control, SEP Lifetime Achievement Award, Association for Psychological Science Lifetime Mentor Award, and two honorary doctorates.

About the Series

Resources for Ecological Psychology Series

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Cognitive Psychology
PSYCHOLOGY / Experimental Psychology
PSYCHOLOGY / Cognitive Neuroscience & Cognitive Neuropsychology