You are on page 1of 32





The process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting sensory
information, which enables us to recognize meaningful objects and

Feature Detectors

■ Our brains have specialized cells whose job
it is to identify specific features of a stimuli.

■ We do not know how the brain combines
these features to make a single percept.
This problem is known as the binding
Sensation Without Perception: Visual Prosopagnosia

Selective Attention

Perceptions about objects change
from moment to moment. We
can perceive different forms of
the Necker cube; however, we
can only pay attention to one
aspect of the object at a time.

Necker Cube
Inattentional Blindness

Inattentional blindness refers to the inability to see an
object or a person in our midst. Simmons & Chabris
(1999) showed that half of the observers failed to see the
gorilla-suited assistant in a ball passing game.

Daniel Simons, University of Illinois
Change Blindness

Change blindness is a form of inattentional blindness in which two-
thirds of individuals giving directions failed to notice a change in
the individual asking for directions.

© 1998 Psychonomic Society Inc. Image provided courtesy of Daniel J. Simmons.

■ Sometimes your mind will play a trick on
you and interprets a stimulus incorrectly.

■ When your mind interprets an image that is
demonstrably incorrect, it is called an

■ Lets look at an illusion!
The Hermann Grid

■ Stare at the center of grid. Note how dark fuzzy spots
appear at the intersections of the white bars.

■ Now focus on the intersections, there are no spots.

■ Why does this illusion exist?
The Answer

■ The reason for this illusion lies in the way
the receptor cells in your visual pathway
interact with each other.

■ The firing of certain cells that are sensitive
to light-dark boundaries inhibits other cells
that would detect the white lines. This
blocking process makes you sense darker
Illusions provide good examples in
understanding how perception is organized.
Studying faulty perception is as important as
studying other perceptual phenomena.

Line AB (4 inches) is longer than line BC (3 inches). The Muller-Lyer
illusion explains this – ends that open outward appear longer than ends
that point inward – pg. 251) 11
The Zulus

■ This question was addressed in the 1970s
when scientists took this image to South Africa
and the Zulu people who live in a rounded

■ Almost exclusively, the Zulu perceived the lines
as being the same size.

– What does this lead us to conclude about
perception? (Hint: learned or inherited?)
Tall Arch
In this picture, the
vertical dimension
of the arch looks
longer than the

Rick Friedman/ Black Star
However, both are
This is due to monocular cues (relative height)– we perceive objects higher in our field
of vision as being further away (in this case, higher up than wide – vertical dimensions
appear longer than identical horizontal dimensions. Pg. 247)
Illusion of a Worm

Lothar Spillmann and Pion Limited, London
© 1981, by permission of Christoph Redies and
The figure on the right gives the illusion of a blue hazy
“worm” when it is nothing else but blue lines identical
to the figure on the left.
Other Illusions at the Perceptual Level


Poggendorf Illusion

Other Illusions at the Perceptual Level -

■ The Zöllner illusion is a classic optical illusion where a
pattern surrounding parallel lines creates the illusion that
they are not parallel.
■ The Poggendorf illusion is a geometrical-optical illusion that
involves the misperception of the position of one segment
of a transverse line that has been interrupted by the
contour of an intervening structure. (When an obliquely
oriented straight line is interrupted by a vertical occluder,
the line segment on the right appears to be shifted
downward with respect to the line segment on the left. )

Perceptual Illusions and Principles

1. The Poggendorf Illusion- In the Poggendorf
illusion a straight line disappears at an angle
behind a solid figure and reappears at a
position that seems wrong.

■ Architects need to be concerned with this
illusion. Lines hidden behind a column will
look displaced when they emerge on the other
side. A plane collision in which 4 people died
and another 49 were injured has also been
attributed to this puzzling perception

The Gestalt Theory

■ Gestalt Psychologists argue that the brain forms a perceptual whole
that is more than the mere sum of its sensory parts.
Perceptual Illusions and Principles

■ 1. The Gestalt Law of
Pragnanz - The
word pragnanz is a
German term meaning
"good figure." The law of
Pragnanz is sometimes
referred to as the law of
good figure or the law of
simplicity. This law holds
that objects in the
environment are seen in a
way that makes them
appear as simple as

Perceptual Illusions and Principles

■ Context Effects - A context
effect is an aspect of cognitive
psychology that describes the
influence of environmental
factors on one's perception of a
stimulus. The impact of context
effects is considered to be part of
top-down design.

■ Context determines whether this
■ is a B or a 13

Perceptual Illusions and Principles

■ The Oblique Effect - The oblique effect demonstrates
the impact of living in a carpentered world. Our visual
sensitivity is better for horizontal and vertical stimuli
than for obliquely oriented stimuli.
■ OR
Oblique effect is the name given to
the relative deficiency in perceptual
performance for oblique contours as
compared to the performance for
horizontal or vertical contours.

Oblique - neither perpendicular nor parallel to a given line or surface;
slanting; sloping.
3-D Illusion

Hoffman, D. & Richards, W. Parts of recognition. Cognition, 63, 29-78
Reprinted with kind permission of Elsevier Science-NL. Adapted from
It takes a great deal of effort to perceive this figure in two dimensions. This is
also a result of monocular cues of light and shadow. The shading produces a
sense of depth consistent with the assumes light source (light comes from above)
pg. 248.

■ Humans see a square as a single figure rather than four

■ Psychologists argue that examples like this show that
humans organize sensory information into meaningful
patters. The most basic of these patterns are pre-wired into
our brains at birth.
■ When vision competes with our other senses, vision usually wins –
a phenomena called visual capture.

■ How do we form meaningful perceptions from sensory

■ We organize it into a gastalt (form or whole). Gestalt psychologists
showed that a figure formed a “whole” different than its
surroundings (like in the necker cube – a bunch of blue circles with
white converging lines, but as a form/whole (gestalt) it is a cube).

Form Perception

Organization of the visual field into objects (figures) that stand out
from their surroundings (ground). This is reversible-same stimulus
can trigger different perceptions – men or arrows.

Time Savings Suggestion, © 2003 Roger Sheperd.
After distinguishing the figure from the ground,
our perception needs to organize the figure into
a meaningful form using grouping rules.

Law of Perceptual Grouping
■ Uniform Connectedness: The principle of uniform connectedness is the
strongest of the Gestalt Principles concerned with relatedness. It refers to
the fact that elements that are connected by uniform visual properties are
perceived as being more related than elements that are not connected.

Law of Perceptual Grouping

■ Law of Similarity: The Gestalt principle that we tend to group similar
objects together in our perceptions.

Do you see x o x o x
rows or x o x o x
columns? x o x o x
x o x o x
x o x o x
Law of Perceptual Grouping

■ Law of Proximity: The Gestalt principle that we tend to group objects
together when they are near each other.

Do you see 5 Xs and 5 Os, or 5 pairs of Xs and Os?

Law of Perceptual Grouping

■ Law of Continuity: The Gestalt principle that we prefer percepts of
connected and continuous figures to disconnected and disjointed ones.

Are these two continuous lines, or do they have breaks?
Law of Perceptual Grouping

■ Law of Common Fate: The Gestalt principle that we tend to group
similar objects together that share a common motion or destination.

– Think a school of fish, a flock of seagulls, a murder of crows
Laws of Perceptual Grouping

■ Law of Pragnanz: The Gestalt principle which states that the simplest
organization, requiring the least cognitive effort, will emerge as the

What is wrong with
this image?