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CHAPTER 3

sensation and perception

psychology
fourth edition

Psychology, Fourth Edition


Saundra K. Ciccarelli J. Noland White

Copyright 2015, 2012, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc.


All rights reserved.

Learning Objectives
3.1

How does sensation travel through the central nervous


system?

3.2

What is light, and how does it travel through the various


parts of the eye?

3.3

What are perception and perceptual constancies?

3.4

What are the Gestalt principles of perception?

3.5

What is depth perception and what kind of cues are


important for it to occur?

3.6

What are visual illusions and how can they and other factors
influence and alter perception?

Why study sensation and


perception?

Without sensations to tell us what is


outside our own mental world,
we would live entirely in our own minds,

separate from one another and


unable to find food or any other basics that
sustain life.
Sensations are the minds window to the world that exists
around us.

Without perception, we would be unable


to understand what all those sensations
mean

Perception is the process of interpreting the


sensations we experience so that we can
act upon them.

Sensation
LO 3.1 Sensation and How It Enters the Central Nervous System

Sensation: the activation of receptors in the


various sense organs
eyes
ears
nose
skin
taste buds
By
different stimulus or kinds of energy rather
than by neurotransmitters

allowing various forms of outside stimuli to


become neural signals in the brain.

Transduction: This process of converting


outside stimuli, such as light, into neural
activity is called transduction.

SENSORY THRESHOLDS
Ernst Weber (17951878) did studies
trying to determine the smallest
difference between two stimuli that is
detectable 50 percent of the time.
Example: two weights that could be
detected.

His research led to the formulation


known as Webers law of just
noticeable differences (jnd, or the
difference threshold).

Webers law simply means that


whatever the difference between stimuli
might be, it is always a constant.

Example: to notice a difference the


amount of sugar a person would need
to add to a cup of coffee
that is already sweetened with 5
teaspoons is 1 teaspoon,
then the percentage of change needed
to detect a just noticeable difference
is one-fifth, or 20 percent.
So if the coffee has 10 teaspoons of
sugar in it, the person would have to
add another 20 percent, or 2
teaspoons,
to be able to taste the difference half
of the time.

Sensory Thresholds
Absolute threshold: the smallest amount of
energy needed for a person to consciously
detect a stimulus 50 percent of the time.

Gustav Fechner (18011887) expanded on


Webers work by studying something he called
the absolute threshold (Fechner, 1860).
An absolute threshold is the lowest level of
stimulation that a person can consciously
detect 50 percent of the time the stimulation
is present.
Example: assuming a very quiet room and
normal hearing,
how far away can someone sit and you might
still hear the tick of their analog watch on half
of the trials?

Subliminal Sensation
LO 3.1 Sensation and How It Enters the Central Nervous System

Subliminal stimuli: Stimuli that are below


the level of conscious awareness

just strong enough to activate the


sensory receptors, but not strong enough
for people to be consciously aware of
them
limin: threshold
sublimin: below the threshold
Many people believe that these stimuli
act upon the unconscious mind,
influencing behavior in a process called
subliminal perception.

Perceptual Properties of Light


What is light, and how does it travel
through the various parts of the
eye?
It was Albert Einstein who first
proposed that light is actually tiny
packets of waves.

These wave packets are called


photons and have specific
wavelengths associated with them
When people experience the
physical properties of light, they
are not really aware of its dual,
wavelike and particle-like nature.

With regard to its psychological


properties, there are three aspects to
our perception of light:
brightness,
color,
and saturation.
Brightness is determined by the
amplitude of the wave
how high or how low the wave
actually is
the higher the wave, the brighter the
light will be
low waves are dimmer

Perceptual Properties of Light


LO 3.2 What Is Light?

Color, or hue, is determined by the


length of the wave showing the
degree of lightness
long wavelengths are found at the red
end of the visible spectrum
The whole spectrum of light that is
visible to the human eye)
shorter wavelengths are found at the
blue end

Saturation: the purity of the color


people see
mixing in black or gray would lessen
the saturation

The Visible Spectrum


The wavelengths that people can see.

Sound
LO 3.4 What Is Sound?

Wavelength: interpreted as
frequency or pitch (high,
medium, or low)
Amplitude: interpreted as
volume (how soft or loud a
sound is)
Purity: interpreted as
timbre (a richness in the
tone of the sound)
Hertz (Hz): cycles or
waves per second, a
measurement of frequency

Psychology, Fourth Edition


Saundra K. Ciccarelli J. Noland White

Copyright 2015, 2012, 2008 by Pearson Education, Inc.


All rights reserved.

Theories of Pitch
LO 3.4 What Is Sound?

Pitch:
psychological
experience of
sound that
corresponds to
the frequency of
the sound waves
higher
frequencies are
perceived as
higher pitches

Theories of Pitch
LO 3.4 What Is Sound?

Frequency theory: theory of pitch that


states that pitch is related to the speed of
vibrations in the basilar membrane
Place theory: theory of pitch that states
that different pitches are experienced by
the stimulation of hair cells in different
locations on the organ of Corti
Volley principle: theory of pitch that states
that frequencies from about 400 Hz up to
about 4000 Hz cause the hair cells
(auditory neurons) to fire in a volley
pattern, or take turns in firing

Perception
the method by which the
sensations experienced at any
given moment are interpreted
and organized in some
meaningful fashion

Perception and Constancies


LO 3.8 Perception and Perceptual Constancies

Size constancy
the tendency to interpret an object as
always being the same actual size,
regardless of its distance

Shape constancy
the tendency to interpret the shape of an
object as being constant,
even when its shape changes on the
retina

Brightness constancy
the tendency to perceive the apparent
brightness of an object as the same
even when the light conditions change

Figure 3.15 Shape Constancy

Gestalt Principles
LO 3.9 Gestalt Principles of Perception

Figureground
the tendency to
perceive objects, or
figures, as existing on a
background

Reversible figures
visual illusions in which
the figure and ground
can be reversed

Figure 3.16 The Necker Cube

Figure 3.17 Figure-Ground Illusion

Gestalt Principles
LO 3.9 Gestalt Principles of Perception

Proximity
tendency to perceive objects
that are close to each other
as part of the same
grouping

Similarity
tendency to perceive things
that look similar to each
other as being part of the
same group

Gestalt Principles
LO 3.9 Gestalt Principles of Perception

Closure
tendency to complete figures
that are incomplete

Continuity
tendency to perceive things as
simply as possible with a
continuous pattern rather than
with a complex, broken-up
pattern

Gestalt Principles
LO 3.9 Gestalt Principles of Perception

Contiguity
tendency to perceive
two things that happen
close together in time as
being related

Figure 3.18 Gestalt Principles of Grouping

Development of Perception
LO 3.10 What Is Depth Perception?

Depth perception:
the ability to
perceive
the world in three
dimensions

Monocular Cues
LO 3.10 What Is Depth Perception?

Monocular cues (pictorial depth


cues): cues for perceiving depth
based on one eye only
linear perspective: the tendency
for parallel lines to appear to
converge on each other
relative size: perception that
occurs when objects that a
person expects to be of a certain
size
appear to be small and are,
therefore,
assumed to be much farther away

Monocular Cues
LO 3.10 What Is Depth Perception?

overlap:
the assumption that
an object that
appears to be
blocking part of
another object
is in front of the
second object and
closer to the viewer

Monocular Cues
LO 3.10 What Is Depth Perception?

aerial (atmospheric)
perspective: the
haziness that surrounds
objects that are farther
away from the viewer,
causing the distance to
be perceived as greater

texture gradient: the


tendency for textured
surfaces to appear to
become smaller and
finery as distance from
the viewer increases

Monocular Cues
LO 3.10 What Is Depth Perception?

motion parallax: the


perception of motion of
objects in which close
objects appear to move
more quickly than objects
that are farther away
accommodation: the
brains use of information
about the changing
thickness of the lens of the
eye in response to looking at
objects that are close or far
away

Figure 3.19 Examples of Pictorial Depth Cues


(a) Linear perspective, (b) texture gradient, (c) aerial or atmospheric perspective, (d) relative size

Binocular Cues
LO 3.10 What Is Depth Perception?

Binocular cues: cues


for perceiving depth
based on both eyes
convergence: the rotation
of the two eyes in their
sockets to focus on a
single object, resulting in
greater convergence for
closer objects
and lesser convergence
if objects are distant

Binocular Cues
LO 3.10 What Is Depth Perception?

binocular disparity:
the difference in
images between the
two eyes,
which is greater for
objects that are close
and smaller for
distant objects

Figure 3.20 Binocular Cues to Depth Perception

Perceptual Illusions
LO 3.11 How Visual Illusions and Other Factors Influence Perception

Hermann grid: is possibly due to the


response of the primary visual cortex
The grey blobs disappear when looking
directly at an intersection.
Mller-Lyer illusion: illusion of line
length that is distorted by inward-turning
or outward-turning corners on the ends
of the lines,
causing lines of equal length to appear to
be different

Figure 3.22 The Mller-lyer illusion

Perceptual Illusions
LO 3.11 How Visual Illusions and Other Factors Influence Perception

Moon illusion: the moon on the horizon


appears to be larger than the moon in the
sky
apparent distance hypothesis

Perceptual
Illusions
Illusions of motion
autokinetic effect: a
small, stationary light in
a darkened room will
appear to move or drift
because there are no
surrounding cues to
indicate that the light is
not moving
stroboscopic motion:
seen in motion pictures,
in which a rapid series
of still pictures will
appear to be in motion

Perceptual Illusions
LO 3.11 How Visual Illusions and Other Factors Influence Perception

Illusions of motion
phi phenomenon:
lights turned on in a
sequence appear to
move
rotating snakes: due
in part to eye
movements
The Enigma: due in
part to microsaccades

Figure 3.23 Rotating Snakes

Figure 3.24 Reinterpretation of Enigma

Perceptual Illusions
LO 3.11 How Visual Illusions and Other Factors Influence Perception

Ames Room Illusion

Factors that Influence Perception


LO 3.11 How Visual Illusions and Other Factors Influence Perception

Perceptual set (perceptual


expectancy): the tendency
to perceive things a certain
way because previous
experiences or expectations
influence those perceptions
Top-down processing: the
use of preexisting
knowledge to organize
individual features into a
unified whole

4 TOP-DOWN (INDIRECT) AND


BOTTOM-UP (DIRECT) PROCESSING
Visual perception has traditionally been
divided into two contrasting theories: topdown processing, by which the mind
guides representation of objects before
the stimulus is processed,
and bottom-up processing, by which an
array of stimuli determine our perception.

They are affected by the amount of information


that can be retrieved from a situation, and by
existing knowledge about the object or space.

Top-down processing creates expectations of


the world around us based on our experience.
Bottom-up processing involves the more
information-rich data that the world contains.

4.1 TOP-DOWN PROCESSING


Top-down processing is based on knowledge and
bringing knowledge to the perceptual event.
What we have perceived in the past affects what
we perceive in our present environment.
This representation is supplemented by sensory
information.
Everyday perception is frequently supplemented
by what we know; for example, the shape of an
object seen from only one angle is afforded a
three-dimensional representation.

Perception, as a result, is guided by what


information the perceiver selects (fig. 3).
What is important for accurate perception,
in top-down terms, is context.
Top-down processing has clear parallels
with data used in preventive conservation,
since the information is recorded in
predetermined categories based on a
theoretical constructthe deterioration of
materials under certain conditions.

Top-down processing describes a process that can be


subjective, in that the information is led by past
experiences to create explanations, even hypotheses (
Gregory 1972, 1974, 1998), of stimuli around them.
However, the top-down theory does not provide a
complete picture.

For example, top-down processing does not account


for the similarities between different perceptions.

4.2 BOTTOM-UP PROCESSING


Bottom-up processing is related to the role of the data.
Here the information being viewed, rather than the
perceiver, is the starting point of perception.

The process is similar to the way condition surveys are purported to


collect data, in which information is collected and then interpreted.

Individual interpretation is not heavily involved in bottom-up


processing. Information is not perceived as an abstract image but in
its context, so it is very information-rich.

However, background knowledge is not considered a significant


factor in bottom-up processing, so the framework for interpreting
data is not well developed.

As condition surveys collect data from an information-rich


environment to be recorded and interpreted, the snapshot results
have much in common with bottom-up perception that involves a
single percept.

Since bottom-up theory offers little in terms of how information is


interpreted, it has more in common with empirical approaches to
collection assessment.

Figure 3.25 Perceptual Set


Look at the drawing. What do you see? Then look at the two pictures on the next slide.

Figure 3.25 Perceptual Set (Contd)


Would you have interpreted the first drawing differently if you had viewed these images first?

Old woman

Young woman

Factors that Influence Perception


LO 3.11 How Visual Illusions and Other Factors Influence Perception

Bottom-up processing: the analysis of


the smaller features to build up to a
complete perception

Figure 3.26 The Devils Trident