Internalization: A metaphor we can live without

Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (4):618-625 (2001)
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Shepard has supposed that the mind is stocked with innate knowledge of the world and that this knowledge figures prominently in the way we see the world. According to him, this internal knowledge is the legacy of a process of internalization; a process of natural selection over the evolutionary history of the species. Shepard has developed his proposal most fully in his analysis of the relation between kinematic geometry and the shape of the motion path in apparent motion displays. We argue that Shepard has made a case for applying the principles of kinematic geometry to the perception of motion, but that he has not made the case for injecting these principles into the mind of the percipient. We offer a more modest interpretation of his important findings: that kinematic geometry may be a model of apparent motion. Inasmuch as our recommended interpretation does not lodge geometry in the mind of the percipient, the motivation of positing internalization, a process that moves kinematic geometry into the mind, is obviated. In our conclusion, we suggest that cognitive psychologists, in their embrace of internal mental universals and internalization may have been seduced by the siren call of metaphor. Key Words: apparent motion; imagery; internalization; inverse projection problem; kinematic geometry; measurement; metaphors of mind.

Author's Profile

Michael Kubovy
University of Virginia


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