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Chapter 5

Myers 8th Edition

Sensation 2

Sensing the World:

Some Basic Principles
 Threshold
 Sensory Adaptation

 The Stimulus Input: Light Energy
 The Eye
Sensation 3

 Visual Information Processing
 Color Vision

 The Stimulus Input: Sound Waves
 The Ear
 Hearing Loss and Deaf Culture
Sensation 4

Other Important Senses

 Touch
 Taste
 Smell
 Body Position and Movement
Sensation & Perception 5
How do we construct our representations of the
external world?

To represent the world, we must detect physical

energy (stimulus) from the environment and
convert it into neural signals, a process called

When we select, organize, and interpret our

sensations, the process is called perception.
Bottom-up Processing 6
Analysis of the stimulus begins with the sense
receptors and works up to the level of the brain
and mind.

Letter “A” is sensed as a black blotch decomposed into

features by the brain and perceived as an “A” by our
mind .
Top-Down Processing 7

Information processing guided by higher-level

mental processes, as we construct perceptions
drawing on our experience and expectations.

Making Sense of Complexity 8
Our sensory and perceptual processes work
together to help us sort out complex images.

“The Forest Has Eyes,” Bev Doolittle

Sensing the World 9
Senses are nature’s gift that suit the organism’s

A frog feed on flying insects; A male silkworm

moth is sensitive to female sex-attractant odor; and
we as human beings are sensitive to sound
frequencies that represent the range of human
A study of the relationship between physical
characteristics of stimuli and our psychological
experience of them.
Physical World
Light Brightness

Sound Volume

Pressure Weight

Sugar Sweet


No No No Yes Yes
Observer’s Response


Tell when you (observer) detect the light.

Thresholds 12
Absolute Threshold: Minimum stimulation needed
to detect a particular stimulus (ex. Light, sound,
pressure, smell) 50% of the time.
Proportion of “Yes” Responses
0.00 0.50 1.00

0 5 10 15 20 25
Stimulus Intensity (lumens)
Signal Detection Theory (SDT) 13
Predicts how and when we detect the presence
of a faint stimulus (signal) amid background
noise (other stimulation). Assumes that there is
no single absolute threshold and detection
depends on: our Psychological State.

Person’s experience

Carol Lee/ Tony Stone Images

Level of fatigue
Subliminal Threshold
When stimuli are
below one’s absolute
threshold for conscious

Kurt Scholz/ Superstock

Difference Threshold 15
Difference Threshold: Minimum difference
between two stimuli required for detection 50%
of the time, also called just noticeable difference
(JND). Difference

No No Yes
Observer’s Response

Tell when you (observer) detect a difference in the light.

Weber’s Law
Two stimuli must differ by a constant minimum
percentage (rather than a constant amount), to be
perceived as different. Weber fraction: k = dI/I.

Light 8%
Weight 2%
Tone .3%
Applying Weber’s Law 17

Weber’s law can be applied to many situations.

• For example, a $10-per-hour worker may require a
50-cent pay raise to notice the difference;
• a $20-per-hour worker may need to receive a $1
raise to notice.
Sensory Adaptation 18
Diminished sensitivity as a consequence of constant

Put a band aid on your arm and after a while

you don’t sense it.
Now you see, now you don’t 19
Transduction 21

In sensation, transformation of stimulus energy

into neural impulses.

Phototransduction: Conversion of light energy into

neural impulses that brain can understand.
Light Characteristics 22

1. Wavelength (hue/color)
2. Intensity (brightness)
3. Saturation (purity)
Light Stimuli and Psychological
Effects 23

• Color does not exist outside of the mind. It’s a

psychological construct.

• wavelength produces color (short: blue; long: red)

• wave amplitude produces brightness (intensity) (high

amplitude: bright)
Wavelength (Hue) 24

Hue (color):
dimension of
color determined
by wavelength of

Wavelength the
distance from the
peak of one wave
to the peak of the
Wavelength (Hue) 25
Violet Indigo Blue Green Yellow Orange Red

400 nm (nanometers) 700 nm

Short wavelengths Long wavelengths

Different wavelengths of
light result
in different colors.
Intensity (Brightness) 26

Amount of
energy in a
determined by
related to
Intensity (Brightness) 27

Blue color with varying levels of intensity.

As intensity increases or decreases, blue color
looks more “washed out” or “darkened.”
The Eye 28
Parts of the eye 29

1. Cornea: Transparent tissue where light

enters the eye.
2. Iris: Muscle that expands and contracts to
change the size of opening (pupil) for
3. Lens: Focuses the light rays on the retina.
4. Retina: Contains sensory receptors that
process visual information and send it to
the brain.
The Lens 30

Lens: Transparent
structure behind pupil
that changes shape to
focus images on the

Accommodation: The
process by which the
eye’s lens changes shape
to help focus near or far
objects on the retina.
The Lens 31

Nearsightedness: A
condition in which
nearby objects are seen
more clearly than
distant objects.

Farsightedness: A
condition in which
faraway objects are
seen more clearly than
near objects.
Retina 32

Retina: The light-

sensitive inner
surface of the eye,
receptor rods and
cones plus layers
of other neurons
(bipolar, ganglion
cells) that process
visual information.
Optic Nerve, Blind Spot & Fovea 33
Optic nerve: Carries neural impulses from the eye to the
brain. Blind Spot: Point where optic nerve leaves the eye,
because there are no receptor cells located here, it creates a
blind spot. Fovea: Central point in the retina, around
which the eye’s cones cluster.
Test your Blind Spot 34
Use your textbook. Close your left eye, and with
the right eye fixate on the black dot. Move the
page towards and away from your eye. At some
point the car on the right will disappear due to
blind spot.
Photoreceptors 35

E.R. Lewis, Y.Y. Zeevi, F.S Werblin, 1969

Sensation and Perception Crash
Course Video 36

Ends pg. 208

Bipolar & Ganglion Cells 38
Bipolar cells receive messages from
photoreceptors and transmit them to ganglion
cells, which for the optic nerve.
Visual Information Processing 39
Optic nerves connect to the thalamus in the
middle of the brain, and the thalamus to the visual
Feature Detection 40

Nerve cells in the visual cortex respond to

specific features, like edges, angle, and
Ross Kinnaird/ Allsport/ Getty Images
Shape Detection 41
Specific combinations of temporal lobe activity
occur as people look at shoes, faces, chairs and
Ishai, Ungerleider, Martin and Haxby/ NIMH
Perception in Brain 42

Our perceptions are a combination of sensory

(bottom-up) and cognitive (top-down) processes.
Visual Information Processing 43
Processing of several aspects of the stimulus
simultaneously is called parallel processing. The
brain divides a visual scene into subdivisions such
as color, depth, form and movement etc.
Movement Aftereffects
• Michael Levine and Jeremy Shefner cite movement aftereffects
(MAEs) as evidence for the presence of direction-specific
movement detectors in the human visual system.
• The aftereffect spiral illusion can demonstrate this:
• If you watch the
spiral for 20
seconds and
then look at the
adaptSpiral/index.html top of your
hand, it will look
like your hand
is swelling and
decreasing in
• I put a link to
one on your
webpage –
check it out.
What Causes MAEs? 45

• MAEs are apparently caused by the adaptation of

motion-specific detectors that are tuned to the
direction of the movement of the stimuli being viewed.
• For example, in watching a waterfall, all the detectors
sensitive to downward movement are continuously
stimulated. These detectors gradually adapt and
become less sensitive.
• Thus, shifting our gaze will activate the movement
detectors sensitive to upward movement more than the
downward-movement detectors; as a result, objects
will appear to be moving upward.
From Sensation to Recognition
Tim Bieber/ The Image Bank
Blindsight 47

• the ability to respond to visual

stimuli without consciously
perceiving them. This
condition can occur after
certain types of brain damage.
• The vision remains intact; only
the neural areas that bring
vision into awareness are
Theories of Color Vision 49
1. Trichromatic theory: Based on behavioral
experiments, Helmholtz suggested that retina
should contain three receptors sensitive to red,
blue and green colors.

Standard stimulus

Comparison stimulus

Max Medium Low

Blue Green Red

Subtraction of Colors 50

If three primary
colors (pigments) are
mixed it results in
subtraction of all
wavelengths and the
result is black color.
Addition of Colors
If three primary colors (lights) are mixed the
wavelengths are added and the result in white

Fritz Goro, LIFE magazine, © 1971 Time Warner, Inc.

Blue Green Red
Cones Cones Cones
MacNichol, Wald
and Brown (1967)
measured directly
the absorption
spectra of visual
pigments of single
cones obtained from
the retinas of
Short Medium Long
wave wave wave
Rods & Cones 53
• Rods are responsible for vision at low light levels
(scotopic vision). They do not mediate color vision,
and have a low spatial acuity. They have black and
white vision.

• Cones are active at higher light levels (photopic

vision), are capable of color vision and are
responsible for high spatial acuity and fine details.
The central fovea is populated exclusively by cones.
• There are 3 types of cones: the short-wavelength
sensitive cones, the middle-wavelength sensitive
cones and the long-wavelength sensitive cones or S-
cone, M-cones, and L-cones for short.
Color Blindness
Genetic disorder in which people are blind to
green or red colors supported Trichromatic

Ishihara Test
Color Blindness

• Just over 8 percent of all males show color

weaknesses, but slightly less than .05 percent of all
females show similar deficits. Color defects are
genetically transmitted; recent research has
conclusively mapped the pattern of this

Types of Color Blindness
• have either no functioning cones Dichromats
or only one functioning cone type • have one malfunctioning cone
and respond to light in much the
same way that a black and white
system. John Dalton, an
film does. eighteenth-century English
chemist, discovered that he
• All colors are recorded simply as was a dichromat when he wore
gradations in intensity. a scarlet robe to receive his
• Those who have no functioning doctoral degree. As a Quaker,
cones are likely to find daylight he was expected to shun bright
very uncomfortable; those with colors. Critics were silenced
one cone type see comfortably only after they learned that
under both daylight and dim
levels of illumination, but they
crimson and dark blue-green
still lack the ability to appeared to be the same color
discriminate colors. Only a very to him.
small percentage of people
actually suffer from this form of
color blindness.
Types of Color Blindness
• an absence or malfunction of
• the most common form of the blue cone system, was not
dichromacy, is a discovered until about 1950,
malfunction in the green when a magazine article with a
color vision plate appeared as
cone system. People with part of an intensive search
this deficiency are able to throughout England. The
respond to green light but seventeen individuals with this
cannot distinguish green disorder, instead of seeing the
from certain combinations spectrum as composed of blues
and yellows as do other
of red and blue. dichromats, see the longer
wavelengths as red and the
shorter ones as bluish green.

Opponent Colors 58

Gaze at the middle of the flag for about 30

seconds, when it disappears, stare at the dot and report
if you see Britain's flag.
2. Opponent Process Theory
Hering, proposed that we process four
primary colors opposed in pairs of red-green,
blue-yellow, and black-white. Activation of
one member of the pair inhibits activity in the


Color Constancy
Color of an object remains the same under
different illuminations. However, when context
changes color of an object may look different.
(pg. 214)

R. Beau Lotto at University College, London

Purity (Saturation) 61



Monochromatic light added to green and red

make them less saturated.
The Stimulus Input: Light
Energy 62

Both Photos: Thomas Eisner
Color Solid 63

Represents all
characteristics of
light stimulus on
this model.
Ganglion & Thalamic Cells 64
Retinal ganglion cells and thalamic neurons
break down visual stimuli into small
components and have receptive fields with
center-surround organization.

ON-center OFF-Surround

Action Potentials
ENDS page 215 65
Colorful World – PsychSim 5
In this activity you will explore the principles of color vision, and will 66
demonstrate some aspects of color sensation with your own eyes.

COMPLETE ON A BLANK SHEET Altering Color Sensation

The Sensation of Color • If you stare at a red patch and
• Name and briefly describe the three then look at a red apple, will
sensations of color. your experience of the
“redness” of the apple be
stronger or weaker? Why?
• Explain how the two main
Mixing Colored Lights: Additive Mixing
theories of color perception,
• What color appears when you combine all initially appearing to contradict
three lights? each other, are, in fact,
complementary perspectives.
Mixing Colored Pigments: Subtractive Mixing
• What color appears when you combine all
three pigments?
Hearing – Audition
pg. 215
The Stimulus Input: Sound Waves 68
Sound waves are composed of compression and
rarefaction of air molecules.

Acoustical transduction: Conversion of sound

waves into neural impulses in the hairs cells of the
inner ear.
Sound Characteristics 69

1. Frequency
2. Intensity
3. Quality
general term for the distinguishable
characteristics of a tone. Timbre is mainly
determined by the harmonic content of a sound
and the dynamic characteristics of the sound
such as vibrato and the attack-decay envelope of
the sound.

• Hertz is the frequency, the high or low pitch. (standard measure of the frequency of oscillations in
a wave motion. The frequency is 1 Hz when one oscillation occurs in one second.)

• Decibels would be the volume / intensity (loudness).

Quality (Timbre)
Quality (Timbre): Characteristics of sound from
a zither and a guitar allows the ear to distinguish
between the two.
Frequency (Pitch) 71
Dimension of
determined by
wavelength of

Wavelength: The
distance from the
peak of one wave
to the peak of the
Intensity (Loudness) 72

Amount of energy
in a wave
determined by
amplitude relates to
perceived loudness.

Richard Kaylin/ Stone/ Getty Images


Loudness of Sound
Overtones (A component of a complex tone, having a frequency that is
an integral multiple of the fundamental frequency. The first overtone , also called the
second harmonic , has twice the frequency of the fundamental and is therefore an octave
higher; the second overtone or third harmonic has three times the frequency of the
fundamental; and so on. Also called a harmonic. – goes into music theory – we won’t
discuss further.)

Overtones: Make the distinction among

musical instruments possible.

Dr. Fred Hossler/ Visuals Unlimited
The Ear
The Ear 76

Outer Ear: Pinna. Collects sounds.

Middle Ear: Chamber between eardrum and

cochlea containing three tiny bones (hammer,
anvil, stirrup) that concentrate the vibrations
of the eardrum on the cochlea’s oval window.

Inner Ear: Innermost part of the ear,

containing the cochlea, semicircular canals,
and vestibular sacs.
Cochlea: Coiled, bony, fluid-filled tube in the
inner ear that transduces sound vibrations to
auditory signals.

Theories of Audition
Place Theory suggests that sound frequencies
stimulate basilar membrane at specific places
resulting in perceived pitch. (pg. 219)
Theories of Audition

Frequency Theory states that the rate of nerve

impulses traveling up the auditory nerve matches
the frequency of a tone, thus enabling us to sense
its pitch.
Sound Auditory Nerve
Frequency Action Potentials

100 Hz
Localization of Sounds
Because of two ears sounds that reach one ear
faster than the other makes us localize the

Localization of Sound 81

1. Intensity differences
2. Time differences

Time differences as small as 1/100,000 of a second can lead

to localize sound. Head acts as “shadow” or partial sound
Hearing Loss 82

Conduction Hearing Loss: Hearing loss

caused by damage to the mechanical
system that conducts sound waves to the

Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Hearing

loss caused by damage to the cochlea’s
receptor cells or to the auditory nerve, also
called nerve deafness.
Hearing Deficits

Older people tend to hear low frequencies well but suffer

hearing loss for high frequencies.

Deaf Culture 84

Cochlear implants are electronic devices that

enable the brain to hear sounds.

Scientist, Vol. 92, Number 5. (p. 437)

Wolfgang Gstottner. (2004) American
EG Images/ J.S. Wilson ©

Deaf Musician Cochlear Implant

End pg. 223 85
Other Important Senses 86
Sense of touch is a mix of four distinct skin senses-
pressure, warmth, cold, and pain.
Bruce Ayers/ Stone/ Getty Images
Skin Senses 87
Only pressure has identifiable receptors, all other
skin sensations are variations of pressures,
warmth, cold and pain.

Pressure Vibration Vibration

Burning hot Cold, warmth and pain

Pain 88
Pain tells the body that something has gone wrong.
Usually pain results from damage to the skin and
other tissues. There is a rare disease in which the
person feels no pain.

AP Photo/ Stephen Morton

Ashley Blocker (right) feels neither pain
nor extreme hot or cold.
Biopsychosocial Influences 89
Gate-Control Theory 90

Melzak and Wall (1965, 1983) proposed that our

spinal cord contains neurological “gates” that
either block pain or allow it to be sensed.

Gary Comer/

Pain Control 91
Pain can be controlled by a number of therapies
including, drugs, surgery, acupuncture, exercise,
hypnosis and even thought distraction.

©Hunter Hoffman,

Todd Richards and Aric Vills, U.W.
Taste 92
Traditionally taste sensations consisted of sweet,
salty, sour and bitter tastes. Recently receptors for
a fifth taste have been discovered called “Umami”.

Sweet Sour Salty Bitter Umami

Sensory Interaction 93

When one sense affects another sense sensory

interaction takes place. So taste of strawberry
interacts with its smell and its texture on the
tongue to produce flavor.
Smell 94
Like taste smell is a chemical sense. Odorants enter
the nasal cavity to stimulate 5 millions receptors to
sense smell. Unlike taste there are many different
forms of smells.
Age, Gender and Smell 95
Ability to identify smell peaks during early
adulthood but steadily decline after that. Women
are better at detecting odors than men.
Smell and Memories 96
Brain region (red) for
smell is closely
connected with brain
regions (limbic system)
involved with memory,
that is why strong
memories are made
through the sense of
Body Position and Movement 97

The sense of our body parts’ position and

movement is called kinesthesis. And the vestibular
sense monitors the head (and body’s) position.

Bob Daemmrich/ The Image Works

Whirling Dervishes Wire Walk