Publication 6726

Hoffman D. D. (2016) The interface theory of perception. Current Directions in Psychological Science 25(3): 157–161. Fulltext at https://cepa.info/6726
Our perceptual systems are products of evolution and have been shaped, in part, by natural selection. It is widely assumed that natural selection favors veridical perceptions – that is, perceptions that accurately describe aspects of the objective world relevant to fitness. This assumption has been tested using the mathematics of evolutionary game theory. It is false. Monte Carlo simulations reveal that veridical perceptions are never more fit, and generically are less fit, than nonveridical perceptions of equal complexity that are tuned to fitness. Veridical perceptions go extinct, and their extinction rate increases as complexity increases. These results motivate a new theory of perceptual systems – as species-specific interfaces shaped by natural selection to hide objective reality and guide adaptive behavior. For Homo sapiens, space-time is the desktop of the interface and physical objects are icons on the desktop. The shapes and colors of physical objects no more resemble objective reality than the shapes and colors of desktop icons resemble files in a computer.

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