Reviewer 1

Review of The world in your head, by Steve Lehar.

This project promises a novel approach to the problem of perceptual consciousness. It attempts to relate conscious awareness to brain processing by way of the mathematics of harmonic resonance.

Gestalt theorists made important contributions to the field of psychology in general, and perception in particular, in the middle of the 20th century. Their observations and principles have intuitive appeal and fill an explanatory vacuum. Their neuroscience was naive, however, and it was difficult to quantify their principles. Thus the Gestalt approach to perception went into decline. Neuroscience has progressed enormously since then, of course. This project promises to relate Gestalt principles to modern brain science.

This is a difficult project to evaluate. The prospectus makes a large claim, and the chapters I saw are intriguing. The introductory chapter is strikingly original and thought provoking. The computational model presented in chapter 4 also appears potentially fruitful. However, the first chapter does not make as many references to the literature as one would expect, although I cannot say that anything in particular was overlooked. Similarly, the computational model is sketched out is such brief detail that it is impossible for me to evaluate.

The usual procedure would be for an author to publish a few papers demonstrating the potential of a new model before writing a monograph. From what I can gather from a literature search, and from the lack of references to his own work, the author has only published a few abstracts on this material, presumably papers or posters at meetings. This makes publication of the project more risky. I would like to see how the theory accounts for a substantial body of experimental data before I would be convinced of the approach.

The comparison to Gleick's Chaos, Marr's Vision, and Pribram's holographic theory, and Mandelbrot's fractals may be apt in terms of the originality. Gleick's book, however, was a popular review of other people's work; Pribram's book did not lead anywhere, in my opinion; and Marr's book reviewed empirical data to some extent, if I recall correctly from this remove. Perhaps the best comparison is to Gibson's last book, which was mostly theoretical, but led to considerable work.

If you are getting other reviews of this proposal, I would suggest people in the area of visual cognition, or computational neuroscience, neither of which are my area.

I hope this is helpful. In a nutshell, it seems strikingly original, intriguing, and maybe correct, but risky.

Author's Response