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Perception and Past Experience 50 Years After Kanizsa’s (Im)possible Experiment

20 February, 2020

Perception – the SAGE journal dedicated to the perception science – has published Walter Gerbino’s article “Perception and Past Experience 50 Years After Kanizsa’s (Im)possible Experiment”. This article is based on the Kanizsa Lecture that Prof. Gerbino, senior lecturer at UniTS, gave during the European Conference on Visual Perception organised in Trieste on August 2018 by prof. Tiziano Agostini and his co-workers.
This article illustrates a complex work by Gaetano Kanizsa that opened a book published in 1968 by UniTS Institute of Psychology, where he worked as director, Kanizsa’s work is examined in the light of today literature on the possible role of past experiences in perception.

The original volume – edited by Kanizsa and his assistant, Giovanni Vicario, who has recently passed away – was dedicates to Cesare L. Musatti, on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. In order to counterargument a well-known theory of his mentor, Kanizsa produces a variety of visual effects aimed at demonstrating that – in many situations (the formation of visual objects or their mimesis, the deep stratification, the phenomena stratification, the trajectories of the perceived movement) – perception violates the possible spectators’ expectations on the basis of their past experiences within that environment.

To Musatti’s scepticism on the possibility to efficiently isolate the empiric factor Kanizsa opposed phenomena that later became a classic in a branch of experimental literature still characterised by controversies on perception determinants.
Walter Gerbino’s article contributes to the re-examination of the literature on this subject with new demonstrations.