Chapter 6: Sensation and Perception I. Sensing the World: Some Basic Principles a. Sensation: The process by which our sensory receptors and nervous system receive and represent stimulus energies from our environment. b. Perception: the process of organizing and interpreting sensory information, enabling us to recognize meaningful objects and events. c. Bottom-up processing: sensory analysis that starts at the entry level (sensory receptors) and moves to the brain d. Top-down processing: guided by higher level mental processing, as we construct perceptions drawing on experience and expectation. e. Psychophysics: the study of relationships between the physical characteristics of stimuli, such as their intensity, and our psychological experience of them. f. Thresholds: i. Absolute: the minimum simulation needed to detect a particular stimulus 50% of the time 1. Vary with age ii. Signal detection 1. Signal detection theory: predicts how and when we will detect the presence of a faint stimulus (signal) amid background stimulation (noise) a. Says there is no single absolute threshold and that it depends on i. Experience ii. Expectation iii. Motivation iv. Fatigue 2. Subliminal stimulation a. Subliminal: below one’s absolute threshold for conscious awareness b. Priming: the activation, often unconscious, of certain associations, thus predisposing one’s perception, memory, and response. i. Sometime s we feel what we do not know and cannot describe c. But does this actually lead to lasting persuasion? i. Greenwald (1991,1992) experiment says no 3. Difference Thresholds a. Difference threshold (or just noticeable difference JND): the minimum difference between two stimuli required for detection 50% of the time. b. Weber’s Law: to be perceived as different, two stimuli must differ by a constant minimum percentage. i. Light: 8% ii. Weight: 2% iii. Tones: .3% g. Sensory Adaptation: diminished sensitivity as a consequence of constant stimulation i. After constant exposure to a stimulus, our nerve cells fire less frequently. ii. We perceive the world not exactly as it is, but as it is useful for us to perceive it. II. Vision a. The Stimulus Input: Light Energy i. Transduction: conversion of one form of energy to another; in sensation, the transforming of stimulus energies into neural impulses our brains can interpret. ii. What strikes our eye is electromagnetic energy that our visual system perceives as color. iii. Electromagnetic spectrum iv. Wavelength (high/low frequency): the distance from one peak to the next 1. Determines hue (color) v. Intensity (great/small amplitude): the high of the waves 1. Determines brightness b. The Eye i. The Retina 1. Receives an upside down image, it itself doesn’t “see” a whole image 2. The thalamus receives and distributes visual information 3. Where the optic nerve leaves the eye, there are no cells and this leaves a blind spot. 4. Rods: detect black, white and gray (6 million) a. Peripheral vision b. Twilight vision 5. Cones: detect fine detail and color (20 million) a. Daylight b. Well-lit conditions c. Visual Information Processing III. i. Feature detection 1. Nerve cells in that brain respond to specific features of the stimulus, such as shape, angle, or movement. 2. Supercell clusters, See image p.241 ii. Parallel Processing 1. Computers do step-by-step serial processing 2. Brain uses parallel processing, doing many things at once (Gestalt) 3. We can prove this through studying brain injuries 4. Combines things like color, motion, form, and depth into one perceptual experience iii. Color Vision 1. “A tomato’s color is our mental construction.” 2. “Color, like all aspects of vision, resides not in the object but in the theatre of our brains.” 3. We can differentiate 7 million different color variations 4. Young-Helmholtz trichromatic (three-color) theory a. Theory that the retina contains three different color receptors i. Red ii. Green iii. Blue 5. Opponent-process theory a. Theory that opposing retinal processes enable color vision i. Red-green ii. Yellow-blue iii. White-black Hearing a. The Stimulus Input: sound Waves i. The Ears 1. Ears transform vibrating air into nerve impulses, which our brain decodes as sounds. 2. Amplitude: strength, determines loudness 3. Frequency: length, determines pitch 4. Measured in decibels IV. ii. Hearing Loss and Deaf Culture Other Important Senses a. Touch i. Kinesthesis: your sense of the position and movement of your body parts 1. Located in sensors in your joints, tendons, bones, ears, and skin ii. Vestibular sense: monitors you head’s position and movement b. Pain i. Biological Influences 1. Gate-control theory: spinal chord contain a neurological gate that blocks pain signals or allows them to pass on to the brain. ii. Psychological Influences 1. Distraction 2. Expectations iii. Socio-cultural Influences 1. Presence of others 2. Empathy for others’ pain 3. Cultural expectations c. Taste i. Sweet, Salty, Sour, Bitter, Umami ii. Taste is evolutionary iii. Taste is chemical d. Smell V. Perceptual Organization a. Form Perception i. Figure and Ground: the organization of the visual field into objects (the figures) that stand out from their surroundings (ground). b. Grouping i. Proximity ii. Similarity iii. Continuity iv. Connectedness v. Closure c. Depth Perception i. Visual cliff: research shows that even infants can perceive depth ii. Binocular cues: depth cues, such as retinal disparity, that depend on the use of two eyes 1. Retinal disparity: by comparing images from the retinas in the two eyes, the brain computes distance; d. e. f. g. h. the greater the disparity between the two images, the closer the object. a. Floating finger sausage! iii. Monocular cues 1. Depth cues, such as interposition and linear perspective, available to either eye alone. a. Relative height b. Relative size c. Interposition d. Linear perspective e. Light and shadow f. Relative motion Motion Perception Perceptual Constancy i. Shape and Size 1. Perceived size and perceived distance ii. Lightness/ Brightness 1. Relative luminance: the amount of light an object reflects relative to its surroundings iii. Color 1. Our experience of color comes not just from the object itself, but from everything around it as well. Perceptual Interpretation i. Sensory deprivation and restored vision 1. Is perception due to nature or nurture? 2. “Experience guides, sustains, and maintains the brain’s neural organization.” 3. Sensory deprivation at young ages is particularly harmful a. “Critical period” 4. Nurture sculpts what nature has endowed Perceptual Adaptation i. In vision, the ability to adjust to an artificially displaced to even distorted field ii. George Stratton and the inverted world Perceptual Set i. A mental predisposition to perceive one thing and not another 1. Schemas: concepts, organize and interpreter unfamiliar information ii. If told there is vinegar in your beer, you will perceive it as tasting worse than if you are not told that (expectation) and most people report McDonald’s fries as better tasting when in a McDonalds bag than in a plain white one (I might be the opposite…as I generally hate McDonald’s fries…) iii. Context effects 1. Stereotypes a. Gender b. Race VI. 2. Differences exist in the perceptions of the beholder iv. Emotion and Motivation 1. Our emotions influence our perceptions 2. It is bio-psycho-social v. Perception and the Human Factor 1. Human factors: a branch of psychology that explores how people and machines interact and how machines and physical environments can be made safe and easy to use Is There Extrasensory Perception? a. ESP: controversial claim that perception can occur apart from sensory input; includes telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. b. Parapsychology: the study of paranormal phenomenon, including ESP c. 96% of scientists in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences are skeptical that such phenomena exist. d. Claims of ESP i. Telepathy: mind to mind communication ii. Clairvoyance: perceiving remote events iii. Precognition: perceiving future events e. Premonitions of Pretensions? i. Generating more predictions increases the odds of one of them being right ii. Vague predictions are easier to interpret multiple ways iii. The power of coincidence f. Putting ESP to the Experimental Test i. What parapsychology needs is a reproducible phenomenon and a theory to explain it.