"What the frog's eye tells to the frog's brain" was the title of a seminal and now classical paper presented by J.Y LETTVIN, H.R. MATURANA, W.S. Mc CULLOCH and W H. PITTS in 1959. (Proceedings of the IRE, 47, 11, 1959)
These authors showed that the information transmitted to the brain is not merely "… a mosaic of light which maps images focused on the retina in some sort of geometric pattern in the brain" (anonymous reviewer in Behavioral Science – Vol 5, nr.3, 1960).
On the contrary: "… the nervous apparatus of the eye itself is designed to detect certain patterns of light and… the optic fibers transmit only certain operational information about these patterns to the brain… The conclusions reached were that four separate operations are performed on the image of the frog's eye and that the result of each of these operations is transmitted by a separate group of fibers, uniformly distributed across the retina. The four operations are:
1. sustained contrast detection
2. net convexity detection
3. moving edge detection
4. net dimming detection" (Ibid)
Some general conclusions seem unavoidable, covering human sight altogether:
- Visual perception is not merely the passive registration of environmental light flows.
- Perception is highly selective.
- This selectivity is based on genetically inherited physico-physiological perceptive devices (which by the way explains, for instance, why different animals have different ranges of color perception).
- The brain reconstructs its own perceptive synthesis in its own way.
- Once learned, perceptive ways become more or less fixed in an algorithmic form (see HEBB's rule), which is also possibly why and how we form MARUYAMA's mindscapes.
As a general consequence, the observer is inextricably enmeshed as an active participant of what he/she observes, and so-called objectivity must be seriously relativized.
As also noted by J.L. SNELL and W.S. Mc CULLOCH "… given certain assumptions, neural networks could embody logic, pattern recognition, learning, purpose and other mental faculties" (1988, p.360).
Finally, the frog's eye experiment started MATURANA on his way toward the autopoiesis concept and its organizational closure complement.
- 1) General information
- 2) Methodology or model
- 3) Epistemology, ontology and semantics
- 4) Human sciences
- 5) Discipline oriented
To cite this page, please use the following information:
Bertalanffy Center for the Study of Systems Science (2020). Title of the entry. In Charles François (Ed.), International Encyclopedia of Systems and Cybernetics (2). Retrieved from www.systemspedia.org/[full/url]
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