Friday, July 22, 2022

The Role of Prediction in Perception

Stored Sunlight, 5 x 8 inches, watercolor and gouache

"The mind is a prediction engine, and nowhere is this more true than in visual perception." 

Comparison with photo taken after the fact

In his book "The Mind: Consciousness, Prediction, and the Brain," by E. Bruce Goldstein details current research about how the process of visual perception. 

What happens when we see is that the brain creates a top-down model of the world and continually checks it against the input coming from our senses.

"The mind encompasses everything we experience," he says, "and these experiences are created by the brain--often without our awareness. Experience is private; we can't know the minds of others. But we also don't know what is happening in our own minds."

This podcast interview with Goldstein lays out the issues well.


Roberto Quintana said...

Thanx for for sharing this. That ‘Brain Science Podcast’ is Fantastic!

So the bottom line is that we don’t have a clue about what others are thinking, and we are totally unaware of what We are thinking!
Well, That explains a lot!
“I Guess, therefore I Survive.” -RQ (I guess)

James Gurney said...

Roberto, I think of it this way: the data stream coming in from our eyes is very fragmentary and selective. But it feels complete because the brain creates a top-down model of the world, continually updated with new information, and it does so automatically and unconsciously. That top-down model elaborates on peripheral areas and it predicts what we're going to see next.

So imagine, for example, that you're driving your car up to a busy intersection. You glance at the rear view mirror, and check if the light is still green, and you glance at a person waiting to cross. Those glances are less than a half second each and all you're really seeing is a handful of foveal snapshots. But the brain is giving you a much more complete impression.

As you say, we are almost completely unaware of this process, assuming wrongly that all the information is coming bottom-up. Scientists who have studied the neurological pathways say that most of the info is going the other way.

Roberto Quintana said...

That’s a good way to look at it. It’s all a ‘Hardware plus Software’ thing, and where does the hardware end and the software begin? There is so much quantity and variety of input to be integrated and feed-back looped (face recognition, foreground/background differentiation, positive/negative space evaluation, edge detection, all upside-down and in 3D, etc.,etc.). Most of it un-conscious or pre-conscious or sub-conscious, or just plain ignored. And then the software fills in all the gaps and just makes up a good story about what it all is! The really amazing thing is how a ’much more complete impression’ it all creates, or how coherent and integrated it all is (except for when its not).
And then there is the whole ‘guessing’ thing, which is really about making a choice, and where/when and who is making the ‘choices’. And we haven’t even started talking about dreams and quantum-field theory and holograms created in the glial cells yet! Whew! It all gives me a headache!
It’s amazing that we can even make it to through the intersection intact! -RQ