We Know It When We See It

Pages: 272
Subject: Popular Science, Science
Imprint: Oneworld

We Know It When We See It

What the Neurobiology of Vision Tells Us About How We Think

Richard Masland

Definitive pop science from a world expert.

The Book

More than meets the eye - the science of how we see and the secrets it reveals about how the brain works.

Spotting a familiar face in a crowd is so easy, you take it for granted. But how you do it is one of science's great mysteries.

Vision is involved in nearly a third of everything a brain does and explaining the ways it works reveals more than just how we see. It also tells us how the brain deals with information - how it perceives, learns and remembers.

In We Know It When We See It, pioneering neuroscientist Richard Masland covers everything from what happens when light hits your retina, to the increasingly sophisticated nerve nets that turn that light into knowledge, to what a computer algorithm must be able to do before it can truly be called ‘intelligent'. It is a profound yet accessible investigation into how our bodies make sense of the world.

Additional Information

Subject Popular Science, Science
Pages 272
Imprint Oneworld


About the Author

Richard Masland was the David Glendenning Cogan Distinguished Professor of Ophthalmology and Professor of Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School. He died in 2019, and is remembered for his groundbreaking contributions to the study of neural networks and to the reversal of blindness. 


'A masterful page-turner that braids science and the stories behind the science. Wise, insightful, and written with the approachability and wisdom that only a veteran of the field can achieve.'

- David Eagleman, neuroscientist at Stanford, New York Times bestselling author

'We Know It When We See It is the definitive description of the neuroscience of perception. Using language anyone can understand [...] Anyone interested in perception, machines that can learn, or how the brain works should read it.'

- Andrew D. Huberman, Professor of Neurobiology and Ophthalmology, Stanford University School of Medicine

'How do we recognize a face in a crowd? Starting with this question, Masland teaches us not only how we see but how we think and remember. Step by step, he paints a picture of the brain as a dynamic, wide-ranging coalition of nerve nets.  This picture provides striking parallels with artificial intelligence and highlights the remarkable adaptability, creativity, and resilience of the brain.'

- Susan R. Barry, Author of Fixing My Gaze and Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience and Behavior, Mount Holyoke College