Sensation and Perception



The process by which our sensory receptors and nervous system receive and represent stimulus energies from our environment


the process of organizing and interpreting sensory information, enabling us to recognize meaningful objects and events

Bottom-up Processing

analysis that begins with the sensory receptors and works up to the brain’s integration of sensory information

Top-down Processing

information processing guided by higher-level mental processes, as when we construct perceptions drawing on our experience and expectations

Change Blindness

failing to notice changes in the environment

Inattentional Blindness

failing to see visible objects when our attention is directed elsewhere

Hermann von Helmholtz

built on insights of English physicist Thomas Young; knew that any color could be created by combining the light waves of the three primary colors- red, green, and blue

Thomas Young

worked with von Helmholtz to build the Young-Helmholtz

Young-Helmholtz trichromatic (three-color) theory

the theory that the retina contains three different color receptors—one most sensitive to red, one to green, one to blue—which, when stimulated in combination, can produce the perception of any color

The Eye

Afterimage Effect

Stare at the center of the flag for a minute, then look away to the white space; you will see their opponent colors, red-green, yellow-blue, and white-black


the sense or act of hearing

How Sound Travels Through the Ear

  • Blind musicians (think Stevie Wonder) are more likely than sighted ones to develop perfect pitch (Hamilton, 2000).
  • With one ear plugged, blind people are also more accurate than sighted people at locating a sound source (Gougoux et al., 2005;Lessard et al., 1998).
  • Close your eyes and with your hands indicate the width of a one-dozen egg carton. Blind individuals, report University of Otago researchers, can do this more accurately than sighted people (Smith et al., 2005).
  • People who have been deaf from birth exhibit enhanced attention to their peripheral vision (Bavelier et al., 2006). Their auditory cortex,starved for sensory input, remains largely intact but becomes responsive to touch and to visual input (Emmorey et al., 2003;Finney et al., 2001; Penhune et al., 2003).

ESP (Extrasensory Perception)

controversial claim that perception can occur apart from sensory input; includes telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition

  • Telepathy, or mind-to-mind communication—one person sending thoughts to another or perceiving another’s thoughts.
  • Clairvoyance, or perceiving remote events, such as sensing that a friend’s house is on fire.
  • Precognition, or perceiving future events, such as a political leader’s death or a sporting event’s outcome.


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