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Processes in the psychological plane cause us to overlook the fact that in the physical plane all optical effects whatsoever are fundamentally due to differences of colour and brightness, and of light and shade.
Cott (1940, p. 3)
Accounts of camouflage reflect basic concepts about the relationship between sensory perception and the physical world. The twist is that whereas the discussion of this question normally refers to human perception we must now focus on non-human species. Cott's (1940) book on Adaptive Coloration in Animals remains the most valuable work on camouflage. Cott was familiar with the idea that to achieve verisimilitude an artist has to paint the physical patterns of light and shade created by three-dimensional surfaces. Naïve artists overlook these optical effects in favour of ‘higher-level’ objects. Only with skill and training is it possible to recover the ‘innocence of the eye’ that is needed to render naturalistic scenes on canvas (Cott 1940; Gombrich 1960). This reasoning led Cott to explicitly reject psychological interpretations of camouflage in favour of what he saw as ‘simple’ optical effects. Cott was however interested in the psychology of attention, as with the suggestion that high-contrast internal features distract the viewer.
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