The Status of the Minimum Principle in the Theoretical Analysis of Visual Perception

Psychological Bulletin 97 (2):155–186 (1985)


We examine a number of investigations of perceptual economy or, more specifically, of minimum tendencies and minimum principles in the visual perception of form, depth, and motion. A minimum tendency is a psychophysical finding that perception tends toward simplicity, as measured in accordance with a specified metric. A minimum principle is a theoretical construct imputed to the visual system to explain minimum tendencies. After examining a number of studies of perceptual economy, we embark on a systematic analysis of this notion. We examine the notion that simple perceptual representations must be defined within the "geometric constraints" provided by proximal stimulation. We then take up metrics of simplicity. Any study of perceptual economy must use a metric of simplicity; the choice of metric may be seen as a matter of convention, or it may have deep theoretical and empirical implications. We evaluate several answers to the question of why the visual system might favor economical representations. Finally, we examine several accounts of the process for achieving perceptual economy, concluding that those which favor massively parallel processing are the most plausible.

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,743

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

39 (#295,345)

6 months
5 (#136,100)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Citations of this work

Principles of Object Perception.Elizabeth S. Spelke - 1990 - Cognitive Science 14 (1):29--56.
A Theory of Perceptual Objects.E. J. Green - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (3):663-693.

View all 15 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

How 'Decent' Is a Decent Minimum of Health Care?R. T. Meulen - 2011 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 36 (6):612-623.
The Place of Shepard in the World of Perception.Walter Gerbino - 2001 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24 (4):669-671.
Visual Perception and Subjective Visual Awareness.Antti Revonsuo - 1998 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21 (6):769-770.
What Needs to Emerge to Make You Conscious?Cees van Leeuwen - 2007 - Journal of Consciousness Studies 14 (1):115-136.
The Ethics and Economics of the Minimum Wage.T. M. Wilkinson - 2004 - Economics and Philosophy 20 (2):351-374.
Myth, Measurement, and the Minimum Wage: Sound and Fury Signifying What?Glen Whitman - 1996 - Critical Review: A Journal of Politics and Society 10 (4):607-619.