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Chapter 6: Perception

Selective Attention
• Sensory transduction occurs, and then aided by knowledge and expectations, brain perceives
meaning from these signals, which are selectively attended to (perception)
• selective attention – at any moment our awareness focuses on a limited aspect of all we
experience; we process a fraction of a percentage of the information we sense
o cocktail party effect – ability to attend to one voice among many (though if name called
that voice is brought into consciousness)
o Our attention is divided at the level of conscious awareness; we can only focus on one
task at a time (ex. Driving & phone-talk, hearing two conversations simultaneously)
o Process of shifting attentional gears costs time (drivers also talking on phone take longer
to notice roads signs, pilots planes when viewing console)
• Inattentional blindness – failing to see visible objects when our attention is directed elsewhere
o Neisser, Becklen, & Cervone – people failed to notice woman carrying umbrella walking
across screen when focused on people tossing balls in white shirts
o Change blindness – inattentional blindness relating to changes in environmental factors
o Change deafness – inattentional deafness relating to changes in sound
o Choice blindness – inattentional blindness relating to one’s preference or choice (when
given an attractive face the S had “chosen” – but was really switched out - S did not
notice the switch)
o Choice-blindness blindness – blind to one’s choice blindness (haha researchers haha)
• Pop-out – we view a strikingly distinct stimulus (ex the only smiling face)
Perceptual Illusions
• vision capture: the tendency for vision to dominate the other senses
o optical illusions causing nausea, sound of movie from movie screen even though it comes
from projector
o hearing can also capture another sense (can influence perceptions of touch)
Perceptual Organization
• Gestalt psychologists noticed when given a cluster of sensations, we tend to organize them into a
gestalt - an organized whole
o A unique perceived form emerges from stimulus’ components
o Sensation and perception (top down & bottom up processing) blend into one continuous
process
Form perception
Figure and ground
• our first perceptual task is to form a figure-ground relationship – organization of the visual field
into objects (figures) that stand out from surroundings (ground) (applies to sound as well –
cocktail party effect)
• Reversible figure-ground relationships demonstrate same stimulus can trigger more than one
perception
Grouping
• to bring order and form to basic sensations of color movement, contrast, we follow rules for
grouping – organizing stimuli into coherent groups
o Proximity – group nearby figures together (three columns instead of 6 separate lines || ||
||)
o Similarity – group figures that are similar to each other – triangles as vertical columns of
similar shapes, not horizontal rows of dissimilar ones
o Continuity – perceive smooth, continuous patterns over discontinuous ones (sine graph w
line through it is not perceived as halved semicircles)
o Connectedness – uniform & linked = two dots and lines between them = single unit
o Closure – fill gaps to create a complete, whole object (illusory triangle made up by
circles at its vertices)
Depth perception
• depth perception: ability to see objects in 3D even though images that strike retina are 2D,
allowing distance judgment
o Gibson & Walk placed 6- & 14-mo infants on a visual cliff with mothers coaxing them to
crawl onto glass – most did not, indicating depth perception – proves innate perceptual
abilities
Binocular cues
• binocular cues: depth cues – such as retinal disparity and convergence that depend on the use of
two eyes
• retinal disparity: binocular cue for perceiving depth: by comparing images from two eyes brain
computes distance – greater the disparity between two images, the closer the object
o 3D movies imitate this by filming w/ two cameras inches apart, when watched, mimics
retinal disparity
• Convergence: binocular cue for perceiving depth; the extent to which the eyes converge inward
when looking at an object (brain computes the angle) – greater the inward strain, the closer the
object
Monocular cues
• monocular cues: depth cues – such as interposition or linear perspective, available to either eye
or alone
• helps judge things at a distance, where retinal disparity is unavailable
o Relative size – if we assume two objects are similar in size, we perceive one that casts
smaller retinal image as farther away [smaller pedestrians may be misperceived!]
o Interposition – object blocking view of another is perceived as closer
o Relative clarity – because light from distant objects passes through more atmosphere,
hazy objects are perceived as father away than sharper ones
o Texture gradient – gradual change from course texture to fine indistinct one signals
increasing distance
o Relative height – objects higher in our field of vision are perceived as farther away; may
contribute to vertical dimensions appearing longer than horizontal ones
o Relative motion (motion parallax) – the nearer an object is to you (as you are moving
forward) the faster it seems to move backward; objects beyond fixation point move with
you, speed depending on distance – brain uses these speed & direction cues to compute
distances
o Linear perspective – parallel lines appear to converge with distance; the more
convergence, the greater distance
o Light and shadow – nearby objects reflect more light; the dimmer object seems farther
away; we assume light comes from above
Motion perception
• normally brain computes motion based on assumption that shrinking objects are retreating and
enlarging objects are approaching
o large objects (trains) appear to move more slowly than smaller objects (cars)
o to catch a fly ball, fielders keep the ball at a constant angle of gaze
• stroboscopic movement – brain perceives continuous movement in rapid serious of slightly
varying images (applied in 24 frames/second in films)
• Phi phenomenon: an illusion of movement created when two or more adjacent lights blink on
and off in quick succession
Perceptual constancy
• perceptual constancy: perceiving objects as unchanging (having consistent lightness, color,
shape, and size) even as illumination and retinal images change
Shape and Size Constancies
• shape constancy: form of familiar objects is perceived as constant even while our retinal images
of them change
• size constancy: perception of objects as having a constant size even when distance varies
Size-Distance Relationship
• Muller-Lyer illusion explanations: experience w corners of rooms or buildings prompts us to
interpret vertical line on ticket booth as closer and therefore shorter and same-length vertical line
in corner as farther away and therefore longer; people w no experience w carpentered rectangular
shapes (in African villages) are less susceptible to the illusion
• Moon illusion – cues to objects distances at horizon makes Moon seem farther away than when it
is high in the sky
Lightness Constancy
• lightness constancy (brightness constancy) – we perceive an object as having constant lightness
even while its illumination varies
• relative luminance – amount of light an object reflects relative to its surroundings (perceived
lightness depends on this)
• perceived lightness depends on relative luminance and context
Perceptual Interpretation
Sensory deprivation and restored vision
• Those born blind with restored vision could distinguish figure from ground and sense colors
(innate perception), but could not recognize by sight objects familiar by touch
• Recognizing faces as a whole is a learned response (people deprived of vision can recognize
features, but not whole faces); so is perceptual constancy
• Lacking stimulation during a critical period, cortical cells related to vision do not develop normal
connections, leading to blindness to shape
• Brain network responsible for eye with corrected vision within the critical period rapidly
develops, enabling improved visual acuity with as little as one hour’s visual experience
Perceptual adaptation
• perceptual adaptation: in vision, the ability to adjust to an artificially displaced or even inverted
visual field; readaption takes only a few minutes (in terms of artificial displacement), and a few
days (for inversion) by adapting to context and learning to coordinate their movements
Perceptual set
• perceptual set: a mental predisposition, utilizing our experiences, assumptions, and expectations,
to perceive one thing and not the other
• once we have formed a wrong idea about reality, we have more difficulty seeing the truth
o perception of loch ness monster
o can influence hearing
• Schemas (concepts that organize and interpret unfamiliar information) determine our perceptual
set
• Children’s drawings reveal developing perceptual schemas – simplified schema for essential
human characteristics
• Schemas for faces prime us to see facial patterns in random configurations (lunar landscape)
• Face recognition is attuned to expressive eyes and mouth – portrait artists paint an eye in
centerline
Context Effects
• Examples of experience’s effect on helping us construct perception
• Stimulus can trigger different perceptions because of differing schemas and immediate context
(“eel is on the orange,” “eel is on the wagon”; rabbits in box)
• Lew Kulechov – directors evoke emotion in an audience by defining a context in which viewers
interpret an actor’s expressions; music defining context for homophonic words
• Emotional contexts color social perceptions (spouses who feel loved perceive less threat in
stressful marital events), stereotypes about gender can color perception
Perception and the human factor
• Human factors psychology: explores how people and machines interact and how machines and
physical environments can be made safe and easy to use
• Use simple design changes, natural mapping (to overcome the “curse of knowledge”)
• Understanding human factors can help avoid disaster – pilots were deceived by city lights to
believe they were flying higher than they really were, leading to human error commercial air
accidents – helped by requiring copilot to monitor the altimeter during descent
• Research is most important for psychologists – testing the products with real people
• Designers and engineers should consider the human factor by designing things to fit people, being
mindful of the curse of knowledge, and user-testing inventions before production and distribution
Is there Extrasensory Perception?
• extrasensory perception (ESP): perception can occur apart from sensory input (clairvoyance,
telepathy, and precognition)
• parapsychology: study of paranormal phenomena, including ESP and psychokinesis
• Scientists are skeptical because if ESP is real, we would have to overturn the understanding that
our minds are tied to our physical brains whose perceptual experiences are built of sensations
Claims of ESP
• Most testable and most relevant claims are for
o Telepathy: mind-to-mind communication – one person sending thoughts to another or
perceiving another’s thoughts
o Clairvoyance: perceiving remote events (sensing a friend’s house on fire)
o Precognition: perceiving future events
• Also: psychokinesis – “mind over matter” – levitating a table or influencing die roll
Premonitions or Pretensions?
• Psychics were wrong in predicting surprising events and have never had unusual predictions
come true; their visions to police departments are just as accurate as guesses
• Psychics report occasional, guessed correct predictions to media, and vague predictions can be
retrofitted to match events that provide a perceptual set for their interpretation
• Dreams: only seem to tell the future because we are more likely to recall/reconstruct dreams that
seem to have come true; coincidences are almost certain due to chance
Putting ESP to Experimental Test
• in the lab, the experimenter controls what the psychic sees and hears vs. on stage the psychic
controls what the audience sees and hears
• One controlled procedure inviting senders to telepathically transmit ¼ images to receivers = 32%
accurate response rate, though follow-up studies have failed to replicate the phenomenon
• There has not been one case of a person with empirically proven ESP
• People are predisposed to believe ESP exists because such beliefs may stem from misperceptions,
misinterpretations, and selective recall, and unsatisfied hunger for wonderment
• Believe in the paranormal to compensate for psychological discomforts