Behavioral and Brain Sciences

Author's Response
Pylyshyn: Vision and cognition

Vision and cognition: How do they connect?

Zenon Pylyshyn a1
a1 Rutgers Center for Cognitive Science, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08903 [email protected]


The target article claimed that although visual apprehension involves all of general cognition, a significant component of vision (referred to as early vision) works independently of cognition and yet is able to provide a surprisingly high level interpretation of visual inputs, roughly up to identifying general shape-classes. The commentators were largely sympathetic, but frequently disagreed on how to draw the boundary, on exactly what early vision delivers, on the role that attention plays, and on how to interpret the neurophysiological data showing top-down effects. A significant number simply asserted that they were not willing to accept any distinction between vision and cognition, and a surprising number even felt that we could never tell for sure, so why bother? Among the topics covered was the relation of cognition and consciousness, the relation of early vision to other modules such as face recognition and language, and the role of natural constraints.