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Chapter Three:

Sensation and Perception

Think About:
To what extent do our
perceptual experiences
accurately reflect what is in
outside world?
Preview for Chapter Three

Sensory receptor detects specific type of energy
Transduction The process of physical energy
such as light or sound being converted by a receptor
into an electrochemical signal.
The Doctrine of Specific Nerve Energies one-
to-one relationship between nerves and specific
sensory experience
Absolute Threshold
Difference Threshold/Just-noticeable
difference (jnd)
Webers Law the jnd is a constant proportion
of the original stimulus
Light passes through the
pupil in the center of the
iris, which is a muscle
that relaxes and
The light moves through
the lens, which is able to
bend to focus the light on
the retina.
The retina is the lining at
the back of the eye that
contains all of the light
The fovea is the spot on
the retina responsible for
Light: Stimulus of the Visual System
Visual Receptors
Rods more
sensitive to low
levels of light
Cones less
sensitive to light, but
responsible for color
Cones are
concentrated on the
No rods are located
on the fovea.
Multiple rods
converge on each
bipolar cell.
Cones have one-to-
one connections with
bipolar cells
From Eye to Brain
Color Vision
Properties of Color:
Hue Depends on wavelength of light
Saturation The vividness or richness of a color

Brightness Depends on the strength of light

Theories of Color Vision
Additive vs Subtractive Color Mixing

Hermann von Helmholtzs trichromatic theory of color

Three types of cones (red, green, blue)
Ewald Herings opponent-process theory of color vision
Three types of pairs of color receptors (yellow-blue, red-green,
The distal stimulus
The proximal stimulus
Perceptual Organization
Distinguishing figure from ground ordinarily not
difficult, but sometimes there is ambiguity
Perceptual Constancy
Size constancy
Shape constancy

Color constancy

Brightness constancy
Perception of Distance/Depth
Monocular Cues
Linear Perspective
Aerial Perspective
Texture Gradiant
Motion Parallax
Binocular Cues
Stereoscopic Vision Combination of the slightly different images our two eyes
Feedback from muscles responsible for convergence of eyes
Perceptual Illusions
The physical stimulus/energy is sound waves waves
of pressure in air molecules
Sound is the psychological experience created when
the brain receives information from the receptors in the
Characteristics of Sound Waves
Frequency number of cycles per second, or speed of
sound wave
Frequency determines pitch of sound
Measured in Herz (Hz)
Characteristics of Sound Waves
Amplitude the height of the wave
Amplitude determines volume
measured in decibles
Characteristics of Sound Waves
Complexity/Overtones The precise vibration patterns of
the sound waves
Determines the timbre
Sound waves
vibrate the
This causes
among the
three tiny
bones on the
other side:
Anvil, and
The stirrup
passes the
through the
oval window
Basilar membrane runs
length-wise through
Basilar membrane ripples
due to vibrations.
Organ of Corti lie atop
the basilar membrane
and contain hair cells,
the sound receptors.
When the basilar
membrane vibrates, the
hair cells sway and brush
against the tectorial
membrane above it,
causing the receptors to
fire and transmit their
signals to the auditory
Theories of Audition
How do we distinguish among different
frequencies and perceive pitch?
Place Theory
The brain perceives pitch based on the place on the basilar
membrane that vibrates most strongly
High-frequencies vibrate the base of the membrane, right near
the oval window, most strongly
Low-frequencies vibrate more strongly further down the
membrane, near the opposite end
Frequency theory
The frequency of sound waves/vibrations results in
corresponding frequency of receptor firing
Olfaction is a chemical sense
The receptors react to odor
molecules in the air
Axons from the receptors go to
the olfactory bulb, which is
part of the brain. Messages are
then sent from there to part of
the temporal cortex for higher
processing, like interpretation.
Gender difference in sensitivity
to odor
A chemical sense like olfaction
Receptors are embedded in taste buds
Kinesthetic and Vestibular Senses
Kinesthetic senses provide information about
movement of ones own body.
Receptors throughout body provide feedback about
muscle activity.
Information from these receptors is processed in the
parietal lobes.
Vestibular senses provide information about ones
position in space.
The inner ear is the source of information for the
vestibular senses.
The vestibular senses are responsible for motion
The Skin Senses
Receptors in the skin provide information about
pressure, temperature, and pain.
cold fibers
warm fibers
Paradoxical heat phenomenon
Pain serves an important purpose it alerts us when something is
Sometimes there is pain with no clear physical source
Phantom limb phenomenon
The pain system is complicated and can be influenced at several
Spinal level
Gate Control Theory
Biopsychosocial Theory
Biological mechanisms
Influences on Perception
Motivation and Emotion
Top-down vs. Bottom-up processing

Experience and Culture

Personality Style