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WIREs Cogn Sci
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Animal visual perception

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Abstract Perception processes can be investigated at the physical (concerning the stimulation from the environment to the receptors), physiological (the processes taking place in the neural system), and psychological (the ‘sense’ of perception, the outcome produced by the physical stimulation and the physiological processes) level. The present paper focuses on visual perception, mainly from a psychological level of investigation, and revises comparative literature, highlighting both similarities and differences in the visual structures and functions in different animal classes. For this purpose, the structure of the current eyes is described in a comparative perspective, as well as perceptual organization and object recognition processes, color perception, three‐dimensional structuring of the image, and motion perception. Finally, the literature about comparative susceptibility to various visual illusions will be discussed, as illusory perception has been revealed to be a most useful tool to unveil the perceptual algorithms shared by the different species. In spite of major differences between animal species in the structures in charge of perception and in the adaptations to specific ecological niches, experimental data presented here will lead to the conclusion that a number of basic perceptual principles of organization and functioning are shared between species. WIREs Cogn Sci 2011 2 106–116 DOI: 10.1002/wcs.97 This article is categorized under: Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition Psychology > Comparative Psychology Psychology > Perception and Psychophysics

Eye evolution. Clockwise from top: the photosensitive patch of the proto‐eye; eye with a cup‐shaped photoreceptor layer; the pinhole eye; the camera‐like eye with primitive lens.

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In the experiment by Zanforlin,76 chicks had been trained on a triangle as the positive stimulus, then recognized as positive the figure to the left, which produces the perception of a triangle through illusory contours.

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The Müller‐Lyer illusion consists in the fact that the length of the upper horizontal bar is estimated as shorter than that of the lower bar, due to the orientation of the brackets.

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In the apparatus employed by Reichardt47 to study the optomotor response in insects, a fly suspended in a rotating drum adjusts its direction of flight according to the striped pattern.

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Stimuli employed by Kanizsa et al.27 with mice. Training stimuli (a) and testing stimuli (b and c).

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Herz experiment with jays. Birds were trained to identify the X‐labeled element within a configuration of identical elements. The X‐labeled elements in (a) and (b) were easier to learn than that in (c).

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Cognitive Biology > Evolutionary Roots of Cognition
Psychology > Perception and Psychophysics
Psychology > Comparative Psychology

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