Book review: Sight Unseen


I cannot recommend strongly enough Goodale & Milner’s book on vision ‘Sight Unseen’. The title refers to the idea they pursue throughout the book that our everyday conception of vision is thoroughly misleading. Rather than vision just being ‘what we experience’, it is, in fact, a collection of specific eye-behaviour links (‘visuomotor functions’) of which our conscious perception of the world is only an evolutionary-recent addition. Goodale & Milner have spent their careers investigating this area and base their narrative around a selection of seminal experiments and case-studies of patients with selective brain injuries. Almost no background knowledge is assumed yet the book takes the reader into the intricacies of the psychology of vision. The triumph of the book is that it gives a flavour of how research proceeds while also managing to provide an intuition-shaking overview of the whole topic. I will never think about seeing in the same way again. This is a rare book which is accessible but will also be of interest to those working in the field. If you have any interest in how a research field develops or in the psychology of vision then you should read it.

Goodale, M. & Milner, D. (2004). Sight Unseen: An Exploration of Conscious and Unconscious Vision. Oxford: Oxford University Press

(Full disclosure: I did not get asked to do this review, nor did I receive payment or a free book. I did it because I liked the book. I am actively engaged in research in this area)

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