Perception, action, and experience: Unraveling the golden braid

Andy Clark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Much of our human mental life looks to involve a seamless unfolding of perception, action and experience: a golden braid in which each element twines intimately with the rest. We see the very world we act in and we act in the world we see. But more than this, visual experience presents us with the world in a way apt for the control and fine guidance of action. Or so it seems. Milner and Goodale's [Milner, D., Goodale, M. (1995). The visual brain in action. Oxford: Oxford University Press; Milner, A., Goodale, M. (2006). Epilogue: Twelve years on. In Milner, A., Goodale, M. (Ed.), The visual brain in action (2nd ed., pp. 207-252). Oxford: Oxford University Press] influential work on the dual visual systems hypothesis casts doubt on certain versions of this intuitive vision. It does so by prising apart the twining strands of conscious visual perception and the fine control of visuomotor action. Such a bold proposal is of major interest both to cognitive science and philosophy. In what follows I first clarify the major claims that the bold proposal involves, then examine three sets of worries and objections. The first set concern some important matters of detail. The second set concern a certain kind of conceptual or philosophical worry to the effect that the perception/action model unfairly equates visual experience itself with what are in fact certain elements within visual experience. The third set concern the very idea of conscious experience as a well-defined conceptual or experimental target. I conclude that the boldest versions of the Dual Visual Systems (2VS) story underestimate the variety and richness of visual experience, but that the general picture of visual uptake as a fragmented, multi-stream, multipurpose adaptation is correct, and still revealing after all these years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1460-1468
Number of pages9
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Access
  • Attention
  • Consciousness
  • Dual visual systems
  • Memory
  • Perception
  • Vision

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