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Sensation and Perception

Sensing the World Around Us

Learning Outcomes

•Define absolute thresholds

•Explain the difference threshold and Weber’s law
•Discuss sensory adaptation
Sensation and Perception

Sensation - The activation of

the sense organs by a source
of physical energy.
Sensation and Perception
Perception - The sorting out, interpretation,
analysis, and integration of stimuli by the
sense organs and brain.
Sensation and Perception

Stimulus - Energy that

produces a response
in a sense organ.
Sensation and Perception
Receptors – specialized cells in the sense
organ capable of detecting the stimulus.
Sensation and Perception

Sensation is a physical response, while

perception is a psychological
Absolute and Difference
Absolute threshold: the smallest intensity of a
stimulus that must be present for it to be

Vision A candle flame 30 miles away
Hearing A watch ticking 20 feet away
Smell A drop of perfume in a six-room house
Taste A teaspoon of sugar in a gallon of water
Touch A wing of a fly on cheek, dropped 1 cm
Absolute and Difference
Difference threshold (just noticeable difference): the
smallest level of added (or reduced) stimulation required
to sense that a change in stimulation has occurred
Sensory Adaptation: Turning
Down Our Responses
Sensory adaptation: an adjustment to sensory
capacity when stimuli in the environment are
unchanging; “getting used to” a sensory stimulus
Weber’s law:
so that you stateshave
no longer thatthe
a same
just noticeable
reaction to it
difference is did
as you initially a constant proportion of the
intensity of an initial stimulus.
Seven Senses
Sense of Sight
Illuminating the Structure of the Eye
Mechanisms of Vision
Rods are thin, cylindrical receptor cells that are highly
sensitive to light. They enable you to see in dim light.
Rods play a key role in peripheral and night vision.
Mechanisms of Vision
Cones are cone-shaped, light-sensitive receptor cells
that are responsible for sharp focus and color
perception, particularly in bright light.

Feature detection: Form

the process
explaining that Motion
neurons in the
cortex are
specialized and
are activated
only by visual
stimuli of a
particular shape
or pattern.
Color Vision and Color Blindness:
The Seven-Million-Color Spectrum
Trichromatic theory of color vision: three kinds of cones
exist in the retina (one most responsive to blue-violet,
one to green, & one to yellow-red)
Color Vision and Color Blindness:
The Seven-Million-Color Spectrum

Afterimage – after staring at a picture

activity in the retina continues
causing you to see an image of
distorted colors when looking at a
white space.
Color Vision and Color Blindness:
The Seven-Million-Color Spectrum

vs. theory of color vision:
receptor cells are
linked in pairs (blue-
vs. yellow, red-green, &
black-white), working
in opposition to each
vs. other
Sense of Hearing
The membrane,
enters the a structure
hair runs
cells through
is filled the
up from
center ofvibrates
the bottom
the and cochlea, dividing
in response
membrane it into an upper and a
to sound.
lower chamber.
Measurement of Sound
Decibel (dB) Sound

140 Jet engine, gun blast

120 Rock concert, thunderclap record-setting human

yell (115 dB)
100 Chain saw, jackhammer, baby screaming,
firecracker, racing car
80 Heavy traffic, alarm clock subway, mp3/cd
60 Conversation, air conditioner at 20 feet

30 Whisper, library, car in neutral (45 dB)

0 Threshold of hearing
Sense of

The pull on our bodies caused by the acceleration of

Semicircular canals:ormovement
forward, backward, up-and-down of fluid here
motion, asaffects our
well as the
sense of balance
constant pull of gravity, is sensed by the otoliths, tiny,
motion-sensitive crystals in the semicircular canals.
Sense of Smell
Smell (olfaction)Molecules enter the nasal
passages and pass over olfactory cells
(receptor neurons); responses sent to brain,
where they are combined for recognition of
particular smells

More than a thousand receptor cells, known as olfactory cells,

are spread across the nasal cavity. The cells are specialized to
react to particular odors.
We also have a good memory for smells, and long-
Humans are
forgotten ableand
events to detect more
memories can than
be ten thousand
brought back
with the mere whiff of an odorsmells.
associated with a memory
Sense of Taste
Receptor cells (taste buds)
respond to four basic stimulus
qualities: sweet, sour, salty,
and bitter

The receptor cells for taste are located in roughly ten

thousand taste buds, which are distributed across the
tongue and other parts of the mouth and throat. The
taste buds wear out and are replaced every ten days or
Supertasters are highly sensitive to taste; they have twice
as many taste receptors as “nontasters.” More females
are “supertasters”. Supertasters find sweets sweeter,
cream creamier, and spicy dishes spicier. Weaker
concentrations of flavor are enough to satisfy any
cravings they may have.
Nontasters are relatively insensitive to taste. They may
seek out relatively sweeter and fattier foods in order to
maximize the taste. As a consequence, they may be
prone to obesity
Sense of Touch
The Skin Senses: Touch, Pressure,
Temperature, and Pain

Skin senses:
touch, pressure,
and pain;
receptor cells in
skin distributed
throughout the
The Skin Senses: Touch, Pressure,
Temperature, and Pain

The lower the average threshold is,

the more sensitive a body part is.
The fingers and thumb, lips, nose,
cheeks, and big toe are the most
Gate-Control Theory of Pain
Pain is a response to a great
variety of different kinds of
Gate-Control Theory of Pain
One explanation is that pain is an outcome of cell
injury. When a cell is damaged, it releases a chemical
called substance P that transmits pain messages to the

Women typically experience

painful stimuli more intensely
than men.

we may inherit our sensitivity to

Gate-Control Theory of Pain
Gate-Control Theory of Pain: particular nerve receptors
in the spinal cord lead to specific areas of the brain
related to pain. When these receptors are activated
because of an injury or problem with a part of the
body, a “gate” to the brain is opened, allowing us to
experience the sensation of pain.
Gate-Control Theory of Pain

Another set of neural

receptors can, when
stimulated, close the
“gate” to the brain,
thereby reducing the
experience of pain.
•Learning Outcomes
–Explain the gestalt laws of organization
–Identify top-down and bottom-up processing
–Define perceptual constancy
–Explain depth perception
–Relate motion perception to daily life
–Determine the importance of perceptual illusions
Figure-ground organization:
we usually perceive objects
as a figure standing out
against a background
Principles that describe how we organize pieces of
information into meaningful wholes (gestalts = patterns)
The Gestalt Laws of Organization

The Gestalt Laws of Organization

The Gestalt Laws of Organization

The Gestalt Laws of Organization

Top-down processing: perception is guided by
higher-level knowledge, experience, expectations,
and motivations

Bottom-up processing: processing information by

progressing from the individual elements of a
stimulus and moving up to the perception of the
Top-Down and Bottom-Up
Top-Down and Bottom-Up
Physical objects are perceived as unvarying and
consistent despite changes in appearance or changes
in the physical environment

Size Constancy

Ex.: the image on your retina of a person far away from you is very
small, but you understand (perceive) her to be of “normal” size
• Acquired through experience; creates stability
– Size Constancy
• Acquired through experience; creates stability
– Brightness Constancy
• Acquired through experience; creates stability
– Shape Constancy
• Monocular Cues

Stimuli suggestive of depth that can be perceived with

only one eye
Depth Perception
• Monocular Cues
– Perspective
Depth Perception
• Monocular Cues
– Relative size
Depth Perception
• Monocular Cues
– Overlapping
Depth Perception
• Monocular Cues
– Shadows
Depth Perception
• Monocular Cues
– Texture gradient

texture gradient – a monocular cue for depth based on the perception that closer
objects appear to have rougher (more detailed) surfaces
Depth Perception
• Monocular Cues
– Motion parallax

motion parallax – a monocular cue for depth based on the perception that nearby
objects appear to move more rapidly in relation to our own motion
Depth Perception

Binocular cues – stimuli suggestive of depth that involve simultaneous perception

by both eyes

Retinal disparity – a binocular cue for depth based on the difference in the image
cast by an object on the retinas of the eyes as the object moves closer or farther

Convergence – a binocular cue for depth based on inward movement of the eyes
as they attempt to focus on an object that is drawing nearer
Depth Perception:
Translating 2-D to 3-D
Depth perception: the ability to view the world in
three dimensions and to perceive distance
Motion Perception: As the World Turns

How do we perceive motion?

 Movement of an object across the retina is

perceived relative to an unmoving background

 If a stimulus is coming toward you, the image

on the retina will expand in size, filling more of
the visual field, but we assume the stimulus is
approaching rather than it’s growing in size

 We factor information about our head and

eye movements with information about changes
in the retinal image
Perceptual Illusions:
The Deceptions of Perceptions
Visual illusions: physical stimuli that consistently
produce errors in perception

•Muller-Lyer illusion
Perceptual Illusions:
The Deceptions of Perceptions
• Visual illusions: physical stimuli that
consistently produce errors in perception
– Muller-Lyer illusion

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