Dr Alfred Lukyanovich Yarbus (1914 -1986) – How a Soviet Red Army Soldier Progressed Perceptual Science

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Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD

Translater’s Note: Alfred Yarbus was a typical product of the Soviet Education System. Fully inaccordance with the strictures of Scientific Socialism, Soviet Society was organised around the scientific principle which was considered the most effective manner through which humanity could evolve and develop technology and understanding in all fields of scientific endeavour. The onus, very much influeced by ‘Futurism’, was to develop such an advanced and progressive scientific understanding and technology, that all of society’s ills could eventually be eleviated and erdicated. On a personal level, this included the curing of all illnesses, and the development of technoogy so as to make life better for each individual. This approach also included extensive research and development in the area of disability, mobility, and life-fulfilment (the Soviet Union developed the world’s first motorised wheelchair, for instance). Despite Albert Einstein declaring Socialism to be the most logical form of socio-economic organisation, and the fact that Soviet technology was often decades ahead of the capitalist West (including in the areas of flight and space exploration), this has not stopped those mindless followers of US Cold War rhetoric declaring Soviet Science to be ‘corrupt’. The example of Alfred Yarbus (and many like him), prove this type of capitalist ignorance to be not only ‘wrong’, but also ‘pathological’ in its structure and intent. (ACW 3.10.2017)

Dr Alfred Lukyanovich Yarbus [Альфред Лукьянович ЯРБУС } (1914 -1986) was a former Red Army soldier during the Great Patriotic War (1941-1945), and saw action against the Nazi German invaders and the Japanese fascists. After the war, he became famous as a scientist and a psychologist who made a number of significnt discoveries about eye movements and human perception. Many of his most interesting results were published in a book, translated into English and published in 1967 as Eye Movements and Vision. He was born on April 3, 1914 in Moscow, and under the Soviet System of ‘free’ education, he received the best tutoring. In 1932, he finished his basic schooling. In 1933, he studied drawing and design courses. After graduation, he worked as a draftsman at the Central Institute of Aviation Motors and the Moscow Aviation Technical School. In 1935, he entered the Physics Department of Moscow University. He graduated from the University in 1941. For about a year he worked as an engineer at Plant No. 633.

From 1942 to 1946, he saw action in the ranks of the Soviet Red Army. During this period, he graduated from Leningrad Military Engineering School and was promoted to junior lieutenant. On the Karelian Front, he commanded a pontoon-bridge platoon. In 1944, his Unit was transferred to the area of ​​Vladivostok. There, during the war with Japan, he worked at the headquarters at the front, as an engineer topographer. In 1946, he was demobilised as the Soviet military was scaled-down. From 1946 to 1947, he worked as a junior researcher at the Institute of Crystallography – which was a part of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In 1947, he enrolled in graduate school, from which he graduated in 1950, receiving the degree of Candidate of Science. From 1950 to 1963, he worked in the Laboratory of Physiological Optics at the Institute of Biophysics of the USSR Academy of Sciences. First in the post of junior researcher, and then as a senior fellow. In 1963, (together with the laboratory) he was transferred to the Institute for Information Transmission Problems of the USSR Academy of Sciences. In 1964 he received a Doctorate in Biological Sciences.

AL Yarbus – was one of the greatest specialists in our country, specialising in the field of the ‘psychophysics’ of vision. His work was related to the development of the original technology that involved the recording of eye movements as electrical impulses (recorded through special ‘sucker’ devices affixed to the skin). The same technique was used to record an image that was immobile relative to the retina. This allowed him to make a number of discoveries concerning the ’empty field’ (or perceptual ‘blind spot’) and its properties. The results obtained in studying the patterns of eye movement, as well as studying the properties of the ’empty field’, were essential for understanding the mechanisms of the organ of vision.

The work of Alfred Yarbus regarding the precise recording of eye movements, and perceptual experiments involving a still image relative to the retina, gained wide popularity within the Soviet Union and abroad. The sound scientifc findings obtained are summarized in the monograph ‘The Role of Eye Movements in the Process of Vision’ (Nauka, 1965), which has already been re-published four times abroad (under the title ‘Eye movements and vision’).

Since 1975, Alfred Yarbus was occupied with the scientific analysis of the perceptual construction of space and colour within the human mind (as detected through the eye). He was the first to confirm that the human retina possesses a ‘blind-spot’ in its sensory aparatus, whereby the human mind ‘fills-in’ the gap in missing data by ‘adding’ information not present in the original perception. During one of his most famous experiments, Alfred Yarbus asked numerous participants to look at the Russion oil painting ‘An Unexpected Visitor’ (painted by Ilya Repin in 1884), recording what each said they saw:

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Participants recalled completely different aspects of this picture – including details that were not present. No one ‘perceived’ the entire picture correctly or within its proper context. Instead, the mind carefully selected ‘small’ areas relevant to the observer at the point in time the painting was looked at. This meant that each participant ‘perceived’ only that which their minds thought was important to them at the time of observation – filtering-out all other informtion. Some ‘beliefs’ were so strong at the point of observation, that the minds concerned ‘projected’ images and colours that did not exist in the original painting. The subjects were asked to look at this picture in a number of different ways, including a) examining the painting freely, b) estimating the material circumstances of the family, c) assessing the ages of the characters, d) determining the activities of the family prior to the visitor’s arrival, e) recalling the clothes of the characters, and f) surmising how long the visitor had been away from the family. Alfred Yarbus was able to ‘track’ how the various participants used their eye-movements (in different patterns of interrogation) to seek-out and acquire different types of information. Belief affected perception, and the mind fabricated information when blind-spots were present.

Russian Language Article:

http://iitp.ru/ru/about/600.htm

ЯРБУС

Альфред Лукьянович

родился 3 апреля 1914 г. в Москве.

В 1932 г. закончил школу. В 1933 г. учился на чертежно-конструкторских курсах. После окончания курсов работал чертежником в Центральном Институте Авиационного Моторостроения и Московском авиационном техникуме.

В 1935 г. поступил на физический факультет Московского университета. Закончил Университет в 1941 г. Около года проработал инженером на заводе № 633.

С 1942 по 1946 гг. находился в рядах Красной Армии. В этот период закончил Ленинградское Военно-инженерное училище и получил звание младшего лейтенанта. На Карельском фронте командовал понтонно-мостовым взводом. В 1944 г. вместе со своей частью был переброшен в район Владивостока. Там, во время войны с Японией, работал при штабе фронта инженером топографом.

В 1946 г. демобилизовался.

С 1946 по 1947 гг. работал мл.н.сотрудником в Институте Кристаллографии АН СССР. В 1947 г. был зачислен в аспирантуру, которую закончил в 1950 г. и получил ученую степень кандидата наук.

С 1950 по 1963 гг. работал в лаборатории физиологической оптики Института Биофизики АН СССР, сперва в должности мл.н.сотрудника, а затем – ст.н.сотрудника. В 1963 г. вместе с лабораторией был переведен в Институт проблем передачи информации АН СССР. В 1964 г. получил ученую степень доктора биологических наук.

А.Л.Ярбус – одby из крупнейших специалистов в нашей стране в области психофизики зрения. Его работа была связана с разработкой оригинальной методики “присосок”, использованной для регистрации движения глаз.  Эта же методика использована для создания изображения, неподвижного относительно сетчатки. Она позволила сделать ряд открытий, касающихся “пустого поля” и его свойств. Результаты, полученные при изучении закономерностей движения глаз, а также при исследовании свойств “пустого поля”, имеют существенное значение для понимания механизмов работы органа зрения.

Работы А.Л.Ярбуса как по регистрации движений глаз, так и по опытам с изображением, неподвижным относительно сетчатки, приобрели широкую известность в пределах Советского Союза и за рубежом. Полученные материалы суммированы в монографии “Роль движений глаз в процессе зрения” (Изд.”Наука”, 1965 г.), которая уже 4 раза переиздавалась за рубежом (“Eye movements and vision”).

С 1975 г. А.Л.Ярбус занимался построением пространства цветовых ощущений, в котором существуют “цвета” (излучений и окрасок) и “антицвета”, удобно описываемые средствами векторной алгебры. Особое внимание в работе было уделено так называемым “слепым” участкам сетчатки (на периферии глаза), влияющим на ощущения, получаемые со “зрячих” участков.

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