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PSYC 2000 Notes

Chapter 5: Sensation and Perception



1. Vision
A. Visible light = One part of the spectrum of all energy
B. How can we see electromagnetic energy?

C. Transduction of Light: Process by which messages are translated into internal language of the brain
a. Light strikes the retina, where light-sensitive cells react to light by creating neural impulses
i. Rods: Sensitive to (120 million)
ii. Cones: Sensitive to (6 million)
1. Concentrated in the fovea
iii. Photopigments chemically react to
1. These break down in bright light, regenerate after time in low light, causing
dark adaptation
b. Processing in the Retina
i. Rod and cone cells pass information to bipolar cells, then to ganglion cells
ii. Ganglion cells send information down the to the brain
1. Ganglion cells have receptive fields, meaning:
a. Input received from a number of other cells
b. Responds only to a particular pattern
c. Many have center-surround fields
d. Respond to light in middle of receptive field differently than on
c. Neural messages travel to brain via optic nerve
i. Splits at optic chiasm
PSYC 2000 Notes
ii. Information from right visual field goes to hemisphere; info from left
visual field goes to hemisphere
d. lateral geniculate nucleus (90%) and superior colliculus (the other 10%)
1. Parts of the thalamus and tectum, respectively
e. Visual cortex (part of the lobe that processes vision) picks out and
identifies components called features
i. Feature detectors (simple cells)
1. Cells in visual cortex that respond to very specific visual stimuli
a. Example: bars of light
2. Discovered by accident! (Hubel & Wiesel)
ii. Like ganglion cells, different layers of visual cortex respond to more and more
complex stimuli by getting information from a multitude of these simple cells
iii. Higher Level Feature Detection
1. Some feature detectors respond to more complex patterns, a.
Example: corners, moving bars, bars of certain length b.
Example: Some respond to faces only
i. Prosopagnosia:
ii. fusiform face area (FFA)
f. Other parts of the brain specialized to handle other aspects of vision, such as motion
D. Color Vision:
a. Trichromatic Theory
i. Three types of cones in retina, each maximally sensitive to one range of wavelengths
1. Wavelengths correspond to:
a. (around 450 nm)
b. (530 nm)
c. (670 nm)
2. Colors sensed by comparing amount of activation coming from each type
3. Most colors are a mix (such as orange)
4. Certain kinds of color blindness result from:

b. Opponent Processes
i. Trichromatic theory can’t explain everything about color vision such as:
ii. Additional process: Receptors in visual system respond positively to one color and
negatively to the complementary color
E. Producing Stable Interpretations
a. Perception depends on context, expectations as well as sensory messages
i. processing: Controlled by physical messages delivered to
the senses. Starts with the physical message delivered by senses and “builds up”
ii. processing: Controlled by one’s beliefs, expectations about
the world
F. Gestalt Psychologists
a. Believe we’re born with tendencies to organize visual information in some ways
b. Gestalt = configuration or pattern in German
PSYC 2000 Notes

Gestalt Principle Example/Law (add sketches and your own examples, too!)




Common Fate


Separating Figure
from Ground

G. Object Recognition by Components Theory (Biederman)

a. Objects broken down into simple geometrical forms (called “ _”) before
identifying whole object
b. Easy to identify incomplete or degraded objects this way
c. Evidence:

H. Our 3-Dimensional World

a. Monocular Depth Cues
i. Monocular:
ii. Examples:
b. Binocular Depth Cues
i. Binocular:
ii. Retinal disparity:
iii. Convergence:
1. Only good for close-up sight
c. Motion Perception
i. Note: Images always moving around on the retina, whether the objects are still or
ii. Sometimes we perceive motion when there isn’t any
1. Phi phenomenon
2. A variety of cues contribute to movement perception, including changes in
retinal images, relative positions of objects
PSYC 2000 Notes
I. Shape/Size Constancy
a. Your brain is smart: Sensory messages are unstable, always changing, yet we perceive a
stable world
b. Well, most of the time: You pay a price for perceiving constant shapes and sizes in the form
of _.
i. Inappropriate interpretations of physical reality
ii. Example assumptions and related illusions:
1. Ames room illusion: Rooms are rectangular
2. Ponzo illusion: Linear perspective cues
3. Müller-Lyer illusion: Converging lines are corners
J. Perception and Action
a. Our perceptual systems have been designed to help us perform successfully in the world i.
e.g., wearing a heavy backpack changes our perception of steepness and distance ii.
What we see is determined by our ability to perform

2. Hearing
A. Translating the Message
B. Sound is mechanical energy requiring a medium such as air or water to move
a. Caused by stimulus
b. Frequency:
i. What we hear as pitch (high or low)
ii. Measured in
iii. Can hear from 20hz – 20khz
iv. Just so happens to be the range of human speech
v. Infants can hear the upper ranges first
c. Amplitude:
i. What we experience as loudness
ii. Measured in
C. How does the ear pick up sound?
PSYC 2000 Notes
D. Detecting Pitch
a. Different auditory nerves (stimulated by hair cells in the ) correspond
to different frequencies
b. Place theory:

i. Hearing Loss and Place Theory

1. Lose ability to hear high pitches with age
2. Why?

c. Frequency Theory
i. Problems with Place Theory
1. Hearing activates more than one hair cell at a time
2. Can’t just rely on the place, must also rely on the of firing
ii. Pitch perception is partly determined by the of
neural impulses traveling up the auditory pathway
E. Interpreting Sound
a. Cells in auditory cortex respond to particular combinations of sounds
b. Sounds grouped, organized by
c. Prior knowledge (top-down processing) plays a role as well
d. To localize sounds, we compare messages between two ears
F. Cochlear Implants
a. Electrodes implanted into cochlea that stimulate the
b. Stimulate different frequencies along the cochlea
c. of electrodes limit the # of electrodes that can be placed
i. Limits the grain, or channels, of information
d. More channels (electrodes) = More precise information
e. “First” attempt at electrical hearing made by
i. Was able to simulate hearing by connecting two medal rods to a battery and
completing the circuit with his head
ii. Described a kind of crackling, bubbling sound
G. Auditory Cortex
a. Cells are frequency sensitive
b. Tonotopic mapping:

c. Some cells respond to certain combinations of pitch

d. Top Down Processing: Role of Context in Auditory Perception
i. Auditory information comes in as a stream
ii. Brain has to break it up to make sense of it
1. Male vs Female voices
2. Can recognize the same speaker at different time of day
3. Can recognize the same melody played on different instruments
PSYC 2000 Notes
3. Skin and Body Senses
A. Skin Senses
a. Touch:

b. Temperature:

c. The Sense of Pain

i. Adaptive reaction by the body to stimuli intense enough to cause tissue damage
ii. Gate-control theory:

B. The Body Senses

a. Kinesthesia:
i. The ability to sense the position and movement of one’s body parts
ii. Many systems involved: receptors in muscles, joints, and skin; visual feedback
b. Vestibular sense:
i. The ability to sense changes in acceleration, posture
ii. Inner ear organs that contribute: ,

4. The Chemical Senses - involve chemoreceptors

A. Smell (olfaction):

B. Taste (gustation):

C. Pheromones: Chemicals that cause highly specific reactions when detected by other members of
the species
a. Examples: Sexual behavior, aggression
b. Do humans react to pheromones, e.g., in perfume?

5. Interplay Among the Senses

A. The McGurk Effect: Audio + Visual processing
B. Mirror Therapy: Visual + Touch
C. Wine Tasting: Visual + Taste
D. Visual + Kinesthesia/Touch
E. Synesthesia
a. Strong synesthesia (rare): Input to one sensory modality produces a perceptual experience
in that modality and another one
b. Tends to be:
i. Unidirectional
ii. Consistent
iii. Weak Synesthesia (common)
PSYC 2000 Notes
6. Psychophysics
A. Stimulus Detection
a. Absolute threshold: Intensity level at which people detect the stimulus % of the time
i. May vary from trial to trial
b. Signal detection technique: Used to determine detection ability
i. May vary from trial to trial
ii. Compare:

c. Difference thresholds: Smallest detectable difference in magnitude

i. Just noticeable difference (JND):

ii. Weber’s Law:

iii. Sensory Adaptation - Tendency of sensory systems to reduce sensitivity to a stimulus

source that remains constant. For example: