The Senses Considered as One Perceptual System

Thomas A. Stoffregen, Bruno Mantel, Benoît G. Bardy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


J. J. Gibson (1966) rejected many classical assumptions about perception but retained 1 that dates back to classical antiquity: the assumption of separate senses. We suggest that Gibson's retention of this assumption compromised his novel concept of perceptual systems. We argue that lawful, 1:1 specification of the animal–environment interaction, which is necessary for perception to be direct, cannot exist in individual forms of ambient energy, such as light, or sound. We argue that specification exists exclusively in emergent, higher order patterns that extend across different forms of ambient energy. These emergent, higher order patterns constitute the global array. If specification exists exclusively in the global array, then direct perception cannot be based upon detection of patterns that are confined to individual forms of ambient energy and, therefore, Gibson's argument for the existence of several distinct perceptual systems cannot be correct. We argue that the senses function as a single, irreducible perceptual system that is sensitive exclusively to patterns in the global array. That is, rather than distinct perceptual systems there exists only 1 perceptual system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-197
Number of pages33
JournalEcological Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017

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