The Case Against the Cognitive Penetration of Perception
The Tunnel Effect (Burke, 1952) provides one demonstration of how
your thoughts appear unable to influence your perception.
A solid blue circle goes into a tunnel, and an orange square outline emerges.
Despite knowing that these cannot be the same object, a single continuous movement is perceived.
If what you believe or know could affect what you perceive, it’s influence should be apparent
The fact that it is not makes it improbable that cognition penetrates perception.
Burke, Luke. ‘On the Tunnel Effect’. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology 4, no. 3 (1952): 121–38. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470215208416611.
The Case For the Cognitive Penetration of Perception
What evidence supports the view that cognition penetrates perception?
Some early findings reported by Bruner and Goodman (1947) provide a template for
Levin & Banaji (2006) appear to have shown that your beliefs about race categories
can influence your perception of the lightness of a face.
This is among the best,
most direct evidence for the view that cognition penetrates perception.
Bruner, Jerome, and Cecile Goodman. ‘Value and Need as Organizing Factors in Perception’. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 42, no. 1 (1947): 33–44.
Witzel, Christoph. ‘An Easy Way to Show Memory Color Effects’: I-Perception, 1 August 2016. https://doi.org/10.1177/2041669516663751.
Witzel, C., M. Olkkonen, and K. R. Gegenfurtner. ‘Memory Colours Affect Colour Appearance.’ Behavioral and Brain Sciences. 39 (2016): e262. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X15002587.
Olkkonen, Maria, Thorsten Hansen, and Karl R. Gegenfurtner. ‘Color Appearance of Familiar Objects: Effects of Object Shape, Texture, and Illumination Changes’. Journal of Vision 8, no. 5 (2008): 13–13. https://doi.org/10.1167/8.5.13.
Levin, Daniel T., and Mahzarin R. Banaji. ‘Distortions in the Perceived Lightness of Faces: The Role of Race Categories’. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 135, no. 4 (2006): 501–12. https://doi.org/10.1037/0096-34184.108.40.2061.
We have seen that there is a body of evidence in favour of the view that
cognition penetrates perception, and also a body of evidence in favour of the
How should we respond to this dilemma?
By considering how well each body of evidence has stood up to further experimental scruitiny,
we can reach a robust conclusion.
Carter, Launor, and Kermit Schooler. ‘Value, Need, and Other Factors in Perception’. Psychological Review 56, no. 4 (1949): 200–207.
Valenti, J. J., and Chaz Firestone. ‘Finding the “Odd One out”: Memory Color Effects and the Logic of Appearance’. Cognition 191 (2019): 103934. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2019.04.003.
Firestone, Chaz, and Brian J. Scholl. ‘Can You Experience “Top-down” Effects on Perception?: The Case of Race Categories and Perceived Lightness’. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 22, no. 3 (2015): 694–700. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-014-0711-5.
Baker, Lewis J., and Daniel T. Levin. ‘The Face-Race Lightness Illusion Is Not Driven by Low-Level Stimulus Properties: An Empirical Reply to Firestone and Scholl (2014)’. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 23, no. 6 (2016): 1989–95. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-016-1048-z.