On the Uses of Make-Perceive
Robert Briscoe
Ohio University

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.