Thinking about psychology the science of mind and behavior
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Thinking About Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behavior. Charles T. Blair-Broeker Randal M. Ernst. Sensation and Perception. Chapter 04. Sensation. Module 09. Introduction. Module 9: Sensation. Sensation/Perception. Pulfrich Effect Demonstration Describe what occurred

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Thinking about psychology the science of mind and behavior

Thinking About Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behavior

Charles T. Blair-Broeker

Randal M. Ernst

Sensation and perception

Sensation and Perception

Chapter 04



Module 09



Module 9: Sensation

Sensation perception


  • Pulfrich Effect Demonstration

  • Describe what occurred

  • Why did you see the optical illusion?

  • What aspect of the demonstration represented sensation? Perception?



  • The process by which our sensory systems (eyes, ears, and other sensory organs) and nervous system receive stimuli from the environment

  • A person’s awareness of the world

Bottom up processing

Bottom-Up Processing

  • Information processing that focuses on the raw material entering through the eyes, ears, and other organs of sensation



  • The process of organizing and interpreting sensory information

Top down processing

Top-Down Processing

  • Information processing that focuses on expectations and experiences in interpreting incoming sensory information

Sensation perception1

Sensation & Perception

How do we construct our representations of the external world?

To represent the world, we must detect physical energy (a stimulus) from the environment and convert it into neural signals. This is a process called sensation.

When we select, organize, and interpret our sensations, the process is called perception.

Bottom up processing1

Bottom-up Processing

Analysis of the stimulus begins with the sense receptors and works up to the level of the brain and mind. ASSOCIATE WITH SENSATION.

Letter “A” is really a black blotch broken down into features by the brain that we perceive as an “A.”

Count the f s in the following text

Count the f’s in the following text:


Top down processing1

Top-Down Processing

Information processing guided by higher-level mental processes as we construct perceptions, drawing on our experience and expectations. ASSOCIATE WITH PERCEPTION (schemas also)


Can you read this


  • Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at an Biritsh uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are. The olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by itslef but the wrod as a wlohe.

Making sense of complexity

Making Sense of Complexity

Our sensory and perceptual processes work together to help us sort out complex images.

“The Forest Has Eyes,” Bev Doolittle

Sensing the world

Sensing the World

Senses are nature’s gift that suit an organism’s needs.

A frog feeds 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 voice.



Module 9: Sensation



  • An edge or a boundary

Difference threshold

Difference Threshold

  • The minimum difference that a person can detect between two stimuli 50% of the time

  • Also called just noticeable difference

Absolute threshold

Absolute Threshold

Thresholds signal detection theory

Thresholds: Signal Detection Theory

Module 9: Sensation

Signal detection theory

Signal Detection Theory

  • Set of formulas and principles that predict when we will detect the presence of a faint stimulus (signal) amid background stimulation (noise)

  • Developed out of the Cold War

Signal detection theory1

Signal Detection Theory

  • Three kinds of variables

    • Stimulus variables

    • Environmental variables

    • Organismic variables

Sensory adaptation

Sensory Adaptation

Module 9: Sensation

Sensory adaptation1

Sensory Adaptation

  • Diminished sensitivity as a result of constant stimulation

  • If a stimulus is constant and unchanging, eventually a person may fail to respond to it

  • Examples of Sensory Adaptation in your own world?

Sensory adaptation2

Sensory Adaptation

Diminished sensitivity as a consequence of constant stimulation(unchanging stimulus).

Put a band aid on your arm and after awhile

you don’t sense it.

Sensory adaptation3


  • Sensory receptors are alert to novelty. Example?

  • Benefit of sensory adaptation: Focus on informative change in our environment, without distractions of uninformative constant stimulation

  • Fundamental lesson: We perceive the world not exactly as it is, but as it is useful for us to perceive it.

Examples of sensory adaptation in your own life

Examples of Sensory Adaptation in your own life

Selective attention

Selective Attention

Module 9: Sensation

Selective attention1

Selective Attention

  • Focusing conscious awareness on a particular stimulus to the exclusion of others

  • The ability to focus on one stimulus at a time

  • Allows a person to function in a world filled with many stimuli

Dichotic listening activity

Dichotic Listening Activity

The visual system the nature of light

The Visual System: The Nature of Light

Module 9: Sensation

Pupil dilation activity

Pupil Dilation Activity

Electromagnetic energy

Electromagnetic Energy

  • An energy spectrum that includes X-rays, radar, and radio waves

  • A small portion of the spectrum includes light visible to the human eye

The electromagnetic spectrum

The Electromagnetic Spectrum

Thinking about psychology the science of mind and behavior


  • The color of light as determined by the wavelength of the light energy

  • Includes: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet (ROY G BIV)

  • The eye can detect 7 million separate hues





  • The brightness of light as determined by height of the wave

  • The taller the wave, the brighter the color



The visual system the structure of the visual system

The Visual System: The Structure of the Visual System

Module 9: Sensation



  • The clear bulge on the front of the eyeball

  • Begins to focus the light by bending it toward a central focal point

  • Protects the eye

Parts of the eye cornea

Parts of the Eye – Cornea

Thinking about psychology the science of mind and behavior


  • A ring of muscle tissue that forms the colored portion of the eye; creates a hole in the center of the iris (pupil)

  • Regulates the size of the pupil by changing its size--allowing more or less light to enter the eye

Parts of the eye iris

Parts of the Eye - Iris



  • The adjustable opening in the center of the eye that controls the amount of light entering the eye (surrounded by the iris)

  • In bright conditions the iris expands, making the pupil smaller.

  • In dark conditions the iris contracts, making the pupil larger.

Parts of the eye pupil

Parts of the Eye - Pupil

Thinking about psychology the science of mind and behavior


  • A transparent structure behind the pupil; focuses the image on the back of the eye (retina)

  • Muscles that change the thickness of the lens change how the light is bent thereby focusing the image

  • Glasses or contacts correct problems in the lens’ ability to focus.

Parts of the eye lens

Parts of the Eye - Lens



  • Light-sensitive surface with cells that convert light energy to nerve impulses

  • At the back of the eyeball

  • Made up of three layers of cells

    • Receptor cells

    • Bipolar cells

    • Ganglion cells

Parts of the eye retina

Parts of the Eye - Retina

Receptor cells

Receptor Cells

  • These cells are present in every sensory system to change (transduce) some other form of energy into neural impulses.

  • In sight they change light into neural impulses the brain can understand.

  • Visual system has two types of receptor cells – rods and cones

Thinking about psychology the science of mind and behavior


  • Visual receptor cells located in the retina

  • Can only detect black and white

  • Respond to less light than do cones



  • Visual receptor cells located in the retina

  • Can detect sharp images and color

  • Need more light than the rods

  • Many cones are clustered in the fovea.



  • The central focal point of the retina

  • The spot where vision is best (most detailed)

Parts of the eye fovea

Parts of the Eye - Fovea

Bipolar cells

Bipolar Cells

  • Gather information from the rods and cones and pass it on to the ganglion cells

  • Cells that form the middle layer in the retina

Ganglion cells

Ganglion Cells

  • Pass the information from the bipolar cells through their axons

  • Together these cells form the optic nerve.

  • The top layer of the cells in the retina

Visual processing in the retina

Visual Processing in the Retina

Visual processing in the retina1

Visual Processing in the Retina

Visual processing in the retina2

Visual Processing in the Retina

Visual processing in the retina3

Visual Processing in the Retina

Optic nerve

Optic Nerve

  • The nerve that carries visual information from the eye to the occipital lobes of the brain

Parts of the eye optic nerve

Parts of the Eye – Optic Nerve

Blind spot

Blind Spot

  • The point at which the optic nerve travels through the retina to exit the eye

  • There are no rods and cones at this point, so there is a small blind spot in vision.

Parts of the eye blind spot

Parts of the Eye – Blind Spot

Blind spot activity

Blind Spot Activity

Video clips on the eye

Video Clips on the Eye

The visual system color vision

The Visual System: Color Vision

Module 9: Sensation



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

Trichromatic three color theory

Trichromatic (three-color) Theory

  • Theory of color vision that says cones are “tuned” to be sensitive to red, green and blue light

  • All the colors we see are a combination of these three colors.

  • Based on work of Helmholtz and Young

  • Similar to the design of a color TV

Colored pencil activity

Colored Pencil Activity

Subtractive color mixing

Subtractive Color Mixing

  • When mixing colored paints, each new color SUBTRACTS (soaks up) another wavelength.

  • Red, blue, and yellow combine to make black paint.

Additive color mixing

Additive Color Mixing

  • When mixing colored lights, each new color ADDS another wavelength.

  • Red, green, and blue combine to make white light.

Color deficient vision

Color Deficient Vision

  • People who lack one of the three types of cones

  • Usually the red or green receptors are missing

  • Usually referred to as color blindness

  • In inherited and found more in males

Opponent process theory of color

Opponent-Process Theory of Color

  • Theory that says color is processed in opponent pairs of color:

    • Red-green, yellow-blue, black-white

  • Light that stimulated one half of the pair inhibits the other half

  • Ewald Hering

  • Explains the afterimage effect

Afterimage effect

Afterimage Effect

Hearing the nature of sound

Hearing: The Nature of Sound

Module 9: Sensation



  • Sound, like light, comes in waves

  • Sound is vibration

  • Features of sound include:

    • Pitch

    • Hertz

    • decibels



  • A sound’s highness or lowness

  • Dependent on the frequency of the sound wave

  • Is measured as hertz (Hz)

Hertz hz

Hertz (Hz)

  • A measure of the number of sound wave peaks per second; measures “frequency”

  • Determines the pitch of the sound

  • Human hearing goes from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz

Decibel db

Decibel (dB)

  • A measure of the height of the sound wave

  • Determines the loudness of the sound

  • Sometimes called amplitude

Hearing the structure of the auditory system

Hearing: The Structure of the Auditory System

Module 9: Sensation

Parts of the ear sound waves

Parts of the Ear – Sound Waves

Auditory canal

Auditory Canal

  • The opening through which sound waves travel as they move into the ear for processing

  • Ends at the tympanic membrane (eardrum)

Parts of the ear auditory canal

Parts of the Ear – Auditory Canal

Tympanic membrane eardrum

Tympanic Membrane (eardrum)

  • The tissue barrier that transfers sound vibration from the air to the tine bones of the middle ear

  • Can be damaged by objects in the ear or exceptionally loud noises

Parts of the ear tympanic membrane

Parts of the Ear – Tympanic Membrane



  • Three tiny bones that transfer sound waves from the eardrum to the cochlea

  • Hammer, anvil and stirrup

Parts of the ear occicles

Parts of the Ear - Occicles



  • A hearing organ where sound waves are changed into neural impulses

  • The major organ of hearing

  • Filled with fluid; a snail shaped body tube

Parts of the ear cochlea

Parts of the Ear - Cochlea

Oval window

Oval Window

  • The point on the surface of the cochlea which receives the sound vibration from the ossicles

  • As the oval window vibrates, the fluid in the cochlea vibrates.

Parts of the ear oval window

Parts of the Ear – Oval Window

Hair cells

Hair Cells

  • The receptor cells for hearing in the cochlea that change sound vibrations into neural impulses

  • Similar to the rods and cones within the eye

Parts of the ear hair cells

Parts of the Ear - Hair Cells

Auditory nerve

Auditory Nerve

  • The nerve that carries sound information from the ears to the temporal lobes of the brain

Parts of the ear auditory nerve

Parts of the Ear – Auditory Nerve

Semicircular canals

Semicircular Canals

  • Organs in the inner ear used in sensing body orientation and balance (vestibular sense)

  • Relies on fluid in the canals

  • Spinning in circles disrupts the fluid.

Parts of the ear semicircular canals

Parts of the Ear – Semicircular Canals

Divisions of the ear

Divisions of the Ear

  • Ear’s structure can be divided into:

    • The outer ear

    • The middle ear

    • The inner ear

Divisions of the ear1

Divisions of the Ear

Divisions of the ear2

Divisions of the Ear

Divisions of the ear3

Divisions of the Ear

Hearing sound localization

Hearing: Sound Localization

Module 9: Sensation

Localization of sound

Localization of Sound

  • Locating where sound is originating from

  • Done through two cues:

    • Which ear hears the sound first?

    • Which ear hears the louder sound?

Localization of sound1

Localization of Sound

Other senses taste

Other Senses: Taste

Module 9: Sensation



  • Taste is a chemical sense.

  • Receptor cells are located primarily on the tongue and in the mouth.

  • Four different tastes:

    • Salty, sweet, sour and bitter

  • Damaged taste receptor cells are replaced within a few days.



  • People with an abundance of taste receptors

  • Approximately 25% of the population



  • People with a minimum of taste receptors

  • Taste with less intensity than the rest of the population

  • Approximately 25% of the population

Supertasters and nontasters

Supertasters and Nontasters

  • Play “Tasters and Supertasters” (14:00) Segment #12 from Scientific American Frontiers: Video Collection for Introductory Psychology (2nd edition).

Other senses smell

Other Senses: Smell

Module 9: Sensation



  • Smell is a chemical sense.

  • Olfactory cells in the upper nasal passages detect molecules in the air.

  • Taste and smell interact to produce flavor.

Olfactory cells

Olfactory Cells

  • The chemical receptor cells for smell

  • Located in the nasal passages







Other senses touch

Other Senses: Touch

Module 9: Sensation



  • Touch receptors are on the skin

  • Four basic skin senses are

    • Pain, warmth, cold, and pressure

  • All skin sensations are a combination of these four basic senses

Gate control theory of pain

Gate-control Theory of Pain

  • Pain messages travel on one set of nerve fibers containing pain gates.

  • The gates are open when pain is felt.

  • Other sensory messages go through another set of fibers.

  • The nonpain fibers can close the pain gates to stop the sense of pain.

Pain and phantom pain

Pain and Phantom Pain

  • Play “Phantom Limb Pain: Fooling the Mind” (4:29) Segment #20 from The Mind: Psychology Teaching Modules (2nd edition).

Other senses body senses

Other Senses: Body Senses

Module 9: Sensation

Kinesthetic sense

Kinesthetic Sense

  • The system for sensing the position and movement of individual body parts

  • Relies on receptor cells from the muscles and joints

  • One’s leg “falling asleep” is a disruption of the kinesthetic sense

Vestibular sense

Vestibular Sense

  • The system for sensing body orientation and balance

  • Relies on fluid in the semicircular canals of the inner ear

  • Spinning in circles disrupts the fluid.

Parts of the ear semicircular canals1

Parts of the Ear – Semicircular Canals

Kinesthetic and vestibular sense

Kinesthetic and Vestibular Sense

  • Play “Sensory-Motor Integration” (3:27) Module #11 from The Brain: Teaching Modules (2nd edition).

The end

The End

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