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date: 27 January 2020

(p. xi) Preface

(p. xi) Preface

Perceptual organization is a central aspect of perception. Indeed, it is often considered as the interface between the low-level building blocks of incoming sensations and the high-level interpretation of these inputs as meaningful objects, scenes and events in the world. This is most obvious in the visual modality, where the features signalled by the neurons in low-level cortical areas must be combined in order for the high-level areas to make sense of them. However, a similar functionality of perceptual organization is also present in other modalities (e.g. audition and haptics). In other words, for vision, perceptual organization is more or less synonymous with mid-level vision. Mid-level vision is the two-way relay station between low-level and high-level vision, referring to a wide range of processes such as perceptual grouping, figure-ground organization, filling-in, completion, and perceptual switching, amongst others. Such processes are most notable in the context of shape perception but they also play a role in other areas including (but not restricted to) texture perception, lightness perception, colour perception, motion perception, depth perception. In summary, perceptual organization deals with a variety of perceptual phenomena of central interest. It is no wonder then that this lively area of research is studied from many different perspectives, including psychophysics, experimental psychology, neuropsychology, neuro imaging, neurophysiology, and computational modelling. Given its central importance in phenomenal experience, perceptual organization has also figured prominently in old Gestalt writings on the topic, touching upon deep philosophical issues regarding mind-brain relationships and consciousness. In addition to its historical importance, it still attracts a great deal of interest from people working in the applied areas of visual art, design, architecture, and music.

The Oxford Handbook of Perceptual Organization brings together the different areas of contemporary research in the field of perceptual organization into one comprehensive and authoritative volume. The handbook provides an extensive review of the current literature, written in an accessible form for scholars and students, functioning as a reference work for many years to come.

The handbook is aimed primarily at researchers and students interested in perceptual organization. The majority of this audience will be vision scientists, an interdisciplinary network of psychologists, physicists, optometrists, ophthalmologists, neuroscientists, and engineers – all working on vision. However, given the central importance of perceptual organization in the broader area of sensation and perception, experimental and cognitive psychologists should be interested as well. In addition, in view of the philosophical, historical, and cultural roots of the Gestalt tradition in which perceptual organization played a key role, some interest is to be expected from other humanities in addition to psychology. Finally, perceptual organization has recently become a hot topic in computer vision and graphics, as well as in web design, art, and other applied areas. Intellectuals from all kinds of disciplinary background will therefore find material in this handbook to trigger their curiosity. (p. xii)