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Perceptual Constancy

Buccella, Alessandra (2020) Perceptual Constancy. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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We perceive objects and events in a way that makes it possible to act, react, think, believe, etc. in reliable and predictable ways. To explain this perceptual stability, as well as its behavioral consequences, theorists invoke a set of capacities known as perceptual constancies. Thanks to constancies, perceivers latch onto what’s unchanging in the world even though sensory stimulation is in continuous flux. In this dissertation, I present and defend a new view of both perceptual constancy and perceptual objectivity, i.e. the capacity of perception to present the world as mind-independent. According to the traditional view, perceptual constancy is the capacity of perceptual systems to recover perceiver-independent properties of distal objects from a largely ambiguous proximal stimulus, ‘discounting’ contextual, perceiver-dependent information. I argue that the traditional view should be rejected because it is, on the one hand, too ‘visuo-centric’, and, on the other hand, unable to fully explain the roles that constancy plays in our lives. These roles include guiding action and enabling the stable conscious experiences that ground our perceptual judgments. The view I favor, which I call “Relational Invariance view”, holds that constancy is the capacity to track invariant relations within the perceptual scene or between some element in the scene and the perceiver. These invariant relations are specified by patterns of variation in the proximal stimulus over time, and perceivers can sometime directly control this variation through movement. This view explains the role that, intuitively, perceptual constancy plays in guiding motor action and in a wide variety of perceptual recognition tasks, where recovering perceiver-independent properties seems unnecessary. The Relational Invariance view is then tied to a new view of perceptual objectivity, whose core insight is that the ‘job’ of perception in enabling the experience of a mind-independent world is not to ‘abstract away’ from any sort of perspectival or contextual influence, but rather to ‘embrace’ these influences as intrinsic to the very idea of what it means to perceive the world for creatures like us.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Buccella, Alessandraalb319@pitt.edualb3190000-0001-6807-7061
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairChirimuuta, Mazviita
Committee MemberGupta, Anil
Committee MemberBrandom, Robert
Committee MemberWu, Wayne
Date: 8 June 2020
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 6 April 2020
Approval Date: 8 June 2020
Submission Date: 1 April 2020
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 121
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Perception; perceptual constancy; relations; invariance; action; phenomenology
Date Deposited: 08 Jun 2020 15:50
Last Modified: 08 Jun 2020 15:50


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