People / Faculty

Whitman Richards

Whitman Richards, Ph.D.
Professor of Cognitive Sciences

Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences
Building: 32-G364
Email: wrichards@mit.edu

Computational Approaches to Perception

Perception is an important window to the world we live in and manipulate. Our senses provide certain facts about this world. From these facts we make powerful inferences about world properties and events, based on representations that we have built. These representations allow us to explain the facts of sensation in terms of models of the world. Our percepts, then, are explanations of the sense data, given our current world models.

This view of perception raises several obvious issues: given a set of sensory facts, what criteria are used to pick one model over another, or to seek out that model which best explains the sense data? How do we upgrade a current model, or index to a set of models? What kinds of perceptual models do we construct? Are there generalized principles that underlie the form of these models? Under what conditions will different individuals share the same models, and hence be able to communicate intelligently with one another?

An important concept underlying several of the above issues is the notion that most of the events in the world that we recognize and understand follow laws and exhibit regularities. These regularities lie at the heart of the models we construct. Hence, using the tools of mathematics, psychophysics and computer science, the Richards laboratory explores the relation between our representations of the world and the regularities of Nature that underlie them.


Koenderink JJ, Albertazzi L, van Doorn AJ, van Ee R, van de Grind WA, Kappers
AM, Lappin JS, Farley Norman J, Stijn Oomes AH, te Pas SP, Phillips F, Pont SC,
Richards WA, Todd JT, Verstraten FA, de Vries S. Does monocular visual space
contain planes? Acta Psychol (Amst). 2010 May;134(1):40-7.

Richards W, Koenderink JJ, van Doorn A. Transparency and imaginary colors. J
Opt Soc Am A Opt Image Sci Vis. 2009 May;26(5):1119-28.

Richards W. Configuration stereopsis: a new look at the depth-disparity
relation. Spat Vis. 2009;22(1):91-103. Review.

Koenderink J, van Doorn A, Pont S, Richards W. Gestalt and phenomenal
transparency. J Opt Soc Am A Opt Image Sci Vis. 2008 Jan;25(1):190-202


Additional Publications