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These lectures consider why the world seems like it does to us. We will explore the field of perception, focusing mainly on vision, from the low-level firing of sensory receptors, through the perception of complex forms in 3D space, to visual attention and the use of vision to guide action. Throughout, there will be an emphasis on key concepts with wide applicability in psychology, for instance: that the brain has evolved to reconstruct reality in a way that is useful to us; that we are wired to detect sudden changes, as this is where the important new information is likely to be; that the brain employs special mechanisms to separate (interesting) changes in the world from (irrelevant) variations in the pattern of stimulation; that the brain continuously makes predictions about the world and tests these against sensory evidence; that speed is vital, so it uses short cuts and heuristics, which often involve assumptions about the world; that the brain solves complex problems by breaking them down into simpler sub-problems; and that we can often learn most about how a complex system is organised by studying situations where it makes mistakes. For this last reason, we will look at many examples of visual illusions, which help to illustrate many of the main tricks and short-cuts that our perceptual systems use.

Lecture No 10
Introduction to perception
Introduction to module’s key concepts; sensation and perception; psychophysics; Signal Detection Theory and the foundations of experimental psychology.
David Hume Tower, Lecture Theatre A
07/10/2019 - 11:10am to 12:00pm
Lecture No 11
Building blocks of perception
The eye and early vision; the receptive field; feature detectors as building blocks of perception.
David Hume Tower, Lecture Theatre A
09/10/2019 - 11:10am to 12:00pm
Lecture No 12
Seeing colour and motion
Wavelength and colour; retinal trichomacy and opponent-pair coding of colour; colour constancy; direct, induced, and apparent motion; space constancy; distinguishing self- and other-motion.
David Hume Tower, Lecture Theatre A
11/10/2019 - 11:10am to 12:00pm
Lecture No 13
Seeing in depth
Building a 3D view of the world from a 2D retinal image; what assumptions does the brain need to recover depth and what happens when those assumptions are wrong?
David Hume Tower, Lecture Theatre A
14/10/2019 - 11:10am to 12:00pm
Lecture No 14
Seeing form
Gestalt principles of perceptual organisation; figure-ground segregation; laws and heuristics; top-down and bottom-up influences; perception as prediction.
David Hume Tower, Lecture Theatre A
16/10/2019 - 11:10am to 12:00pm
Lecture No 15
More than meets the eye
Non-visual modalities; perception as a multimodal activity; synaesthesia.
David Hume Tower, Lecture Theatre A
18/10/2019 - 11:10am to 12:00pm
Learning Outcomes: 

Learning outcomes: by the end of this section, students should be able to:
  - Understand the concept of perception as a function adapted for gathering relevant information from the environment

  - Understand how perceptual experience can be measured and related to the physical properties of stimuli.

  - Understand ways in which perceptual experience can be explained by low-level physiological processes

  - Appreciate the distinction between bottom-up and top-down processes, and the roles they play in perception


Main reference
Schacter , Gilbert & Wegner. Psychology Second European Edition (2016), Chapter 4: Sensation & Perception.

More detailed

Snowden, R., Thompson, P. & Troscianko, T. (2012) Basic vision: An introduction to visual perception. Oxford UP, 2nd edn.

Wolfe, J.M., Kluender, K.R. & Levi, D. M. (2015) Sensation and perception.  Sinauer, 4th edn.

NB – earlier editions of all three books can be used.