Show Reference: "A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness"

A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol. 24, No. 05. (October 2001), pp. 939-973, doi:10.1017/s0140525x01000115 by J. Kevin O'Regan, Alva Noë
    abstract = {Many current neurophysiological, psychophysical, and psychological approaches to vision rest on the idea that when we see, the brain produces an internal representation of the world. The activation of this internal representation is assumed to give rise to the experience of seeing. The problem with this kind of approach is that it leaves unexplained how the existence of such a detailed internal representation might produce visual consciousness. An alternative proposal is made here. We propose that seeing is a way of acting. It is a particular way of exploring the environment. Activity in internal representations does not generate the experience of seeing. The outside world serves as its own, external, representation. The experience of seeing occurs when the organism masters what we call the governing laws of sensorimotor contingency. The advantage of this approach is that it provides a natural and principled way of accounting for visual consciousness, and for the differences in the perceived quality of sensory experience in the different sensory modalities. Several lines of empirical evidence are brought forward in support of the theory, in particular: evidence from experiments in sensorimotor adaptation, visual  ” filling in,” visual stability despite eye movements, change blindness, sensory substitution, and color perception.},
    author = {O'Regan, J. Kevin and No\"{e}, Alva},
    doi = {10.1017/s0140525x01000115},
    issn = {1469-1825},
    journal = {Behavioral and Brain Sciences},
    keywords = {embodiment, motor, representations, sensory-motor},
    month = oct,
    number = {05},
    pages = {939--973},
    posted-at = {2013-09-16 03:16:01},
    priority = {2},
    title = {A sensorimotor account of vision and visual consciousness},
    url = {},
    volume = {24},
    year = {2001}

See the CiteULike entry for more info, PDF links, BibTex etc.

O'Reagan and Noë acknowledge that cortical maps containing information about the world exist.

O'Reagan and Noë deny that the existence of cortical maps explains the metric quality of visual phenomenology.

Just because some phenomenon in brain activity correlates with consciousness (or aspects of consciousness), it does not explain how consciousness arises through it.

In particular, coherent oscillations may correlate with consciousness, but they don't explain it according to O'Regan and Noë.

O'Regan and Noë highlight the importance of understanding seeing as an active process, as an exploratory activity.

All sensory input signals are equal, a priori, as are all motor outputs.

The difference between inputs from different modalities and between different motor outputs is their sensory-motor contingencies.

O'Regan and Noë speak of the geometric laws that govern the relationship between moving the eyes and body and the change of an image in the retina.

O'Regan and Noë claim that the structure of the laws governing visual sensory-motor contingencies is different from the structure of other sensory-motor contingencies and that this difference gives rise to different phenomenology.

Kustov's and Robinson's results support the hypothesis that there is a strong connection of action and attention.

O'Regan and Noë argue that there is not an illusion that there is a "stable, high-resolution, full field representation of a visual scene" in the brain, but that people have the impression of being aware of everything in the scene.

The difference is that we would not need a photograph-like representation in the brain to be aware of all the details even if we were aware of it.

Eye movements are important for visual consciousness.

Could the illusion that there is a "stable, high-resolution, full field representation of a visual scene" in the brain be the result of the availability heuristic? Whenever we are interested in some point in a visual scene, it is either at the center of our vision anyway, or we saccade to it. In both cases, detailed information of that scene is available almost instantly.

This seems to be what O'Regan and Noë imply (although they do not talk about the availability heuristic).