From pictures to reality: modelling the phenomenology and psychophysics of 3D perception

Dhanraj Vishwanath*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
15 Downloads (Pure)


The dominant inferential approach to human 3D perception assumes a model of spatial encoding based on a physical description of objects and space. Prevailing models based on this physicalist approach assume that the visual system infers an objective, unitary and mostly veridical representation of the external world. However, careful consideration of the phenomenology of 3D perception challenges these assumptions. I review important aspects of phenomenology, psychophysics and neurophysiology which suggest that human visual perception of 3D objects and space is underwritten by distinct and dissociated spatial encodings that are optimized for specific regions of space. Specifically, I argue that 3D perception is underwritten by at least three distinct encodings for (1) egocentric distance perception at the ambulatory scale, (2) exocentric distance (scaled depth) perception optimized for near space, and (3) perception of object shape and layout (unscaled depth). This tripartite division can more satisfactorily account for the phenomenology, psychophysics and adaptive logic of human 3D perception.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1869
Early online date13 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jan 2023


  • Affordance and embodiment
  • 3D perception
  • Depth perception
  • Stereopsis
  • Picture perception
  • Phenomenology


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