Philosophy, Psychology and Neuroscience

Experiencing 3D space: Philosophy, Evolution, Psychology

A common view of the perception of 3D space is that what we perceive is a direct “inference” of an external physical reality. This view assumes that the information content and referents of perception are objectively specified independent of the observer. It entails the stance that the best way to understand the functional role and underlying mechanisms of space perception is to examine its quantitative match to physical reality. An alternative view is to assume that the very constructs of 3D space, objects and surfaces arise from evolving perceptual mechanisms which mentally reify an external world. This view entails placing fundamental importance on delineating the ontology and epistemology of the perceptual domain through the analysis of subjective experience (phenomenology) before developing empirically testable models that link back to physical and neural domain. I will present some recent work that takes this approach in understanding the psychology and neuroscience of the distinction between two ways in which humans experience 3-dimensionality: pictorial and stereoscopic depth.