Gibson and Gestalt: (Re)Presentation, Processing, and Construction
Seeking to avoid the typical binary choices between symbolic representations and no representations, or between functionally decomposable psychological processes and no psychological processes, or between direct perception of mind-independent physical properties and indirect perception of sense data, this article proposes that even a clear-thinking friend of Gibson can accept that perception of the environment is mediated by appearances and that such appearances are produced by functionally decomposable, rule-instantiating psychological processes. In so doing, it avoids hyper-intellectualization of the perceptual process or the positing of sense-data as the immediate object of perception. It considers notions of perceptual mediation from the tradition of Gestalt psychology, while referencing recent phenomenological arguments intended to show that perception does not simply conform to mind-independent physical properties. Perception presents such properties under a phenomenal aspect, in a manner suitable to be (and evaluable as) action-guiding. Finally, it examines attempts in neuroscience to decompose Gibsonian information pickup mechanisms, finding that such mechanisms may reasonably be described as effecting processes of construction (on a not-necessarily-cognitivist conception of construction). As a separate point, such process are compatible with positing sub-personal, non-symbolic representations and processes of information integration.
Keywords : Gibson, Gestalt psychology, Ecological psychology, Constructivism, Appearances, Representation