Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Open Peer Commentary
Pylyshyn: Vision and cognition

What is the point of attempting to make a case for cognitive impenetrability of visual perception?

Boris Crassini a1, Jack Broerse a2, R. H. Day a3, Christopher J. Best a1 and W. A. Sparrow a1
a1 School of Psychology, School of Human Movement, Deakin University, Geelong, VIC 3217, Australia buc or cjb or [email protected]
a2 School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia [email protected]
a3 School of Psychological Science, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC 3083, Australia [email protected]


We question the usefulness of Pylyshyn's dichotomy between cognitively penetrable and cognitively impenetrable mechanisms as the basis for his distinction between cognition and early vision. This dichotomy is comparable to others that have been proposed in psychology prompting disputes that by their very nature could not be resolved. This fate is inevitable for Pylyshyn's thesis because of its reliance on internal representations and their interpretation. What is more fruitful in relation to this issue is not a difficult dichotomy, but a different look at perception such as proposed by Gibson (1979).