Correction to post on Rolfs paper

A month ago, I posted (here) on a paper reported in ScienceDaily. (citation below) I had not read the paper but commented on a quote of the author, included in the ScienceDaily item, which to me implied a dated understanding of a division between perception and cognition. The authors have kindly sent me a copy of their paper. I have found nothing in this paper to support my remarks on the quote. I assume that the quote was misleading for some reason. These things happen and I thank the authors for setting me straight on their position.


The author’s criteria for perception and for cognition are quite clear and experimentally based. They base ‘perception’ on the existence of visual adaptation at a specific location on the retina and similar phenomena. This implies the effect occurring at a stage where the retina layout is still the source of the neuronal map. The specific location is a retinal location not a location in the model of the world that is being produced.

Visual adaptation demonstrates the perceptual consequences of a reduction in the responsiveness of neural populations that encode primary visual features. Using this general paradigm, we provided support for the existence of adaptable, visual neurons (or neural populations) that underlie the perception of at least one causal interaction in dynamic scenes. Stimuli that do not appear causal (including our ‘‘slip’’ adaptation stimuli) leave the responses of these neurons unaffected. These neuronal populations must be located in brain areas that encode visual information in an eye- centered reference frame, because the resulting aftereffects are specific to the adapted location on the retina.


They indicate the likely regions where the perception occurs (where there are retinal maps) and where their methodology is useful:

Candidates for such areas are the mediotemporal area V5 and the superior temporal sulcus, both of which have eye-centered representations and are part of a network involved in the perception of causal launches. These areas also respond to other forms of meaningful motion patterns, such as biological motion. Using adaptation, we can now examine the visual computations underlying the perception of causal structure in the visual world. These include not only the routines recognizing familiar motion patterns but also complex interactions involving cause and effect, possibly even animacy and intentionality.


It is clear that the authors have not said anything in this paper that implies the categorization that I complained about. Their view is perfectly reasonable:

This finding allows us to move phenomena that have been regarded as higher-level processes into the realm of perception, opening them to systematic study using the tools of perceptual science. … these percepts require sophisticated inference, and it is now widely agreed that perception is the locus of these advanced decisional processes.

Rolfs, M., Dambacher, M., & Cavanagh, P. (2013). Visual Adaptation of the Perception of Causality Current Biology, 23 (3), 250-254 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.12.017

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