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Richard Brown; Psychophysics beyond the laboratory. Journal of Vision 2019;19(8):30. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/19.8.30.
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I was very privileged to have Don as my mentor, teaching me how to develop incisive questions, and address them with rigorous psychophysics. We explored many topics, including adaptation, nonlinearities, context effects, and individual differences, at all levels from photoreceptors to “the extraocular ganglion”. This presentation will highlight the value of these concepts and methods in subsequent work on two important challenges in the real world. (1) Public science museums offer unique opportunities for people to play with phenomena and experiments, to nurture their curiosity, advance their understanding of the world, and [we hope] enhance their decision-making and behavior. Perceptual phenomena, especially perceptual paradoxes (or “illusions”), have long been exceptionally engaging and valuable models of how science works, and good psychophysics is essential for optimizing these explorations. (2) Animal agriculture, largely driven by human desire to eat meat, is today’s major driver of environmental degradation and climate change, but offers a very rich opportunity for fast and effective change. Making meat directly from plants will vastly reduce the environmental costs. This requires intensive research to understand the perceptual and cognitive signals which make meat meat, so that we can learn to make delicious meat metamers without using animals. The study of food perception is still in a very early stage relative to vision or audition, with many fundamental questions still shrouded in mystery, but lessons learned from visual and auditory psychophysics will contribute importantly to rapid advances.
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