On the Uses of Make-Perceive
Human beings have the ability to ‘augment’ reality by superimposing mental imagery on the visually perceived scene. For example, when deciding how best to arrange furniture in a new home, one might project the image of an armchair into an empty corner or the image of a painting onto a wall. The experience of noticing a constellation in the night-time sky is also perceptual-imaginative amalgam: it involves both seeing the stars in the constellation and imagining the lines that connect them at the same time. I have elsewhere referred to such hybrid experiences – involving both a bottom-up, externally generated component and a top-down, internally generated component – as ‘make-perceive’ (Briscoe 2008, 2011).
My discussion in this paper has two parts. In the first part, I show that make-perceive enables human beings to solve certain complex problems more effectively than bottom-up perceiving or top-down visualization alone. To this end, the skillful use of projected mental imagery is surveyed in a variety of contexts, including billiard playing, perspective drawing, the interpretation of static mechanical diagrams, and celestial navigation. In the second part, I address the question of whether make-perceive may help to account for the “phenomenal presence” of occluded or otherwise hidden features of perceived objects. I argue that phenomenal presence is not well explained by the hypothesis that hidden features are represented in projected mental images. In defending this position, I point to important phenomenological and functional differences between the way occluded features are represented respectively in mental imagery and amodal completion.