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Visual perception in far peripheral visual space and its artistic representations

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posted on 2022-10-13, 13:22 authored by Nicole Ruta


Far peripheral visual field occupies the vast majority of human visual field. With some recent exceptions   (Freeman & Simoncelli, 2011; Strasburger, H., Rentschler, I.,  &  Jüttner,  M.,  2011;  Fortenbaugh,  Sanghvi,  Silver  &  Robertson,  2012; Vishwanath et al., 2005) research on visual perception has traditionally focused on central vision, with the far peripheral visual field and the entirety of visual space still remaining fields open to investigation. The present research integrated artistic and  scientific  knowledgetocontributeto  our  understanding  of  the  relationship between those two disciplines and to investigate that complex phenomenon that goes under the name of visual experience.Linear perspective is a simple and effective way to depict the physical world on a flat surface. Nowadays the vast majority of cameras and digital media rely on the principles of linear perspective, making it the most used method in western society to visually depict a scene. Starting from the common ground that linear perspective shares with light –which travels in straight lines—, many scientists have claimed that it is the optimal way to represent our visual experience (Gombrich, 1960;  Pirenne,  1970;  Gibson,  1971;  Ward,  1976;  Rehkämper,  2003).  However, human perception does not simply record the geometrical projection of light paths hitting our retina, but it is a complex and active process which interprets sensory inputs  and  reconstructs  a  useful  representation  of  the  surrounding  environment, enabling us to navigate in the space. Although scientists generally agree that visual perception does not correspond faithfully to the geometry of physical space (Ogle, 1964; Koenderink, Van Doorn, & Lappin, 2000; Hatfield, 2003; Foley et al. 2004; Wagner, 2006; Koenderink & van Doorn, 2008) the nature of this relationship is far from being fully understood. This research is part of the bigger interdisciplinary project, Fovography, undertaken with Prof. Robert Pepperell and Alistair Burleigh, that combines art, psychology  and  engineering to  generate  artistically  manipulated  images reproducing key characteristics of human visual perception. The main aim of the

current  thesis  is  to  investigate  the  perceived  structure  of  visual  space  in  the  far peripheral visual field and in its artistic representations on pictorial space. Results from this body of work provide evidence for the existence of an underlying structure of visual space, that has often been reflected by artists (Pepperell & Haertel; 2014; Mather, 2015; Koenderink, van Doorn, Pinna, & Pepperell, 2016; Crawford, 2018). Results have shown a visual pattern consisting of perceiving equally sized objects enlarged  when  presented  in  central  compared  to  peripheral  vision.  This  visual pattern has been found both under brief and ad libitum time exposures, using both psychophysical  and  drawing  tasks,  and  evidence  suggest  it  to  be  a  stable characteristic  of  the  phenomenology  of  human  visual  experience.  Artistically manipulated photographs reproducing a geometry similar to this visual pattern were preferred  to  the  ones  using  standard  projections  and  the  effect  was  stronger  if compared  to  the  real  space  depicted  in  the  photographs.  Finally,  results  from manipulation of character size in Trecento Sienese and Florentine paintings tested both an original hypothesis about the correspondence between visual perception and imagined visual space and an alternative hypothesis from art history. Results confirmed  the  important  role  of  characters'  size  in  paintings'  compositions, showing converging evidence from both physiological measures of visual attention and qualitative analysis of paintings descriptions. Research investigating imaginary space  provided  useful  insight  on  the  relationship  between  visual  space  and  its different pictorial representations. The  original  contribution  to  knowledge  of  the  present  PhD  consists  in developing  novel  methods  and  approaches  for  collecting  and  analyzing  data in studies  of  visual  phenomenology  and  artistic  experience,  participating  in  the development of research questions and designing novel experimental apparatuses, and experimental tools.



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  • Doctoral

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  • PhD

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