, Volume 194, Issue 3, pp 761–785 | Cite as

Defending the liberal-content view of perceptual experience: direct social perception of emotions and person impressions

  • Albert Newen
S.I.: Future of Social Cognition


The debate about direct perception encompasses different topics, one of which concerns the richness of the contents of perceptual experiences. Can we directly perceive only low-level properties, like edges, colors etc. (the sparse-content view), or can we perceive high-level properties and entities as well (the liberal-content view)? The aim of the paper is to defend the claim that the content of our perceptual experience can include emotions and also person impressions. Using these examples, an argument is developed to defend a liberal-content view for core examples of social cognition. This view is developed and contrasted with accounts which claim that in the case of registering another person’s emotion while seeing them, we have to describe the relevant content not as the content of a perceptual experience, but of a perceptual belief. The paper defends the view that perceptual experiences can have a rich content yet remain separable from beliefs formed on the basis of the experience. How liberal and enriched the content of a perceptual experience is will depend upon the expertise a person has developed in the field. This is supported by the argument that perceptual experiences can be systematically enriched by perceiving affordances of objects, by pattern recognition or by top-down processes, as analyzed by processes of cognitive penetration or predictive coding.


Direct perception Rich content Liberal content Emotion Person impression Cognitive penetration Predictive coding Pattern recognition 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Philosophy IIRuhr-Universität BochumBochumGermany

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