Text: Sensation and Perception,
Coren, Ward, and Enns and indicated web resources
Office Hours: T 10
R 10, 2
Office: Science Hall 112
Phone: x 7307
Broadly speaking, the study of sensation and perception is the study of
how an organism's brain knows what is going on around it. To help you appreciate
the questions that scientists studying sensation and perception struggle
with, think of the captain of a sea ship. What does that person need to
know? The captain must be able to detect obstacles, storms, other ships,
and weather conditions such as extreme heat that may effect the operation
and safety of the ship. To perform these functions, the captain has radar,
sonar and other systems to gain information about the outside environment.
In addition, the captain must know about the operating condition of the
ship, such as fuel level and temperature of the engine. Sensors have been
placed in the ship to give the captain the needed information. In some
sense you can consider your brain, or mind, as the captain of a ship. In
the same manner as the captain, your brain does not have direct access
to the information necessary to behave in an intelligent and effective
manner. Thus, our sensory systems such as vision and audition are like
the radar which gives your brain necessary information about the outside
world. You also have sensory systems that obtain information about the
state of your body such as your position relative to the ground.
The objective of this course is to develop your understanding of how
our sensory systems operate to gain this necessary information. We will
emphasize those senses that gain information about the outside world. One
of the difficulties with teaching Sensation and Perception is that we all
intuitively "know" what we see, hear, etc. In addition, we have an implicit
trust that what our senses tell us about is physical reality. This belief
is held despite most people having extensive experience with illusions
which illustrate the almost tentative nature of our information about the
outside world. You will have to leave many of these intuitions behind,
because there are many surprises in how our sensory systems actually operate.
In addition to the class lectures, we will be performing laboratory
experiments. These experiments are important both to illustrate important
phenomena of this field, and also to help you understand how the current
understanding of the sensory systems has been gained.
Material covered in any course that you take here at Hanover College represents
more than a collection of facts or ideas loosely held together by the course
title. There is an intricate structure to what is included and what is
not included which makes that course content distinct from other courses.
I find, however, that in the heat of a term students and faculty get caught
up in the particulars of the day's lecture or fulfilling the next assignment
and sometimes lose sight of how the specifics of the day fit into the overall
structure of the course. It is a "lose sight of the forest for the trees"
type of phenomenon. In order to help you understand and keep track of the
overall structure of this course, I have prepared the following course
outline. The reading assignments are listed within the outline so that
you can see how the daily lectures relate to the overall structure of the
Note: In addition to readings from the text there are readings on
the Internet. The first lab period will cover how to get to these readings.
Apr 13-17 Final Examination (During Final Examination
In all types of inquiry, the knowledge gained is fundamentally dependent
upon the methods used to gain that knowledge. Therefore, the laboratory
portion of this course is set up to allow you to both experience some fundamental
phenomena and also to gain experience in how scientific questions are asked,
answers sought and discoveries communicated. Below is the schedule of laboratories
that are part of the course. Some of the laboratories serve the purpose
of illustrating important concepts in the class that take more time than
a one hour class allows. These laboratories do not have any assignment
associated with them and are indicated by the word "Demonstration" following
the description of the laboratory. Other laboratories are designed primarily
to introduce you to the methods of sensation and perception and will only
have problems due on the lab period following the session indicated by
the word "Problems." Other laboratories are designed to serve multiple
purposes but one of the most important goal is developing skills in scientific
communication. These laboratories have reports due the laboratory session
following the session indicated by the word "Report."
Periodically throughout the term there will be short homework assignments
required. The homework will primarily be problems of a type covered in
the class during which the homework is assigned. The homework will usually
require basic math skills including simple trigonometry. Only math that
is required for entrance into the college is assumed and the procedures
will be reviewed in the class. The purpose of the homework is to develop
skills in using math to solve problems and make predictions to be tested.
Each set of problems will be due at the beginning of the next class period.
You should be prepared to present the problem to the class and discuss
your solution. The homework problems will be worth a total of 100 points.
You will be graded only on the problem you present. If you are not ready
to present the problem when called on, then you will get a 0 for this assignment.
There will be four examinations. The examinations will be a combination
format of short answer items (such as identification) and longer essays.
You should expect that the type of work required in the homework assignments
will be required on the examinations. All examinations will be of a similar
format. Also, all examinations will be cumulative because all later material
builds on or relates to earlier material. Since each successive examination
covers more material, each successive examination will be worth more according
to the following chart.
Problems. The problems will be simple data analysis based on
the results of the laboratory. The analysis may require simple statistical
procedures such as a mean or a graphical presentation of the results. Each
set of problems is worth 25 points for a total of 100 points.
Reports. For three of the laboratories, you will be required
to write up the experiment in the form of a report. The format for the
laboratory report, similar to the American Psychological Association format
used on this campus in courses such as Psychology 325, will be covered
in a separate document. All laboratory reports are due exactly one week
after you perform the experiment. A letter grade will be subtracted for
each partial day that the laboratory report is late. This lateness policy
holds for the final project as well. The first laboratory report will be
worth 25 points. The second, third and fourth laboratory reports are worth
50 points for a total of 175 points.
Your own Laboratory Project. In this class we have the great
fortune of having available an excellent software package that can be used
to perform actual experiments on visual capabilities. You will, with a
partner, devise an experiment using this software. Do not get confined
by the titles of the experiment. The range of possible experiments is great
and go well beyond what we might use in our laboratories. A short proposal
for your experiment is required to be submitted on February 6. You
will then collect the data and prepare both a written and oral presentation
of your experiment. The written laboratory report will be done separately
by each lab partner, but the oral presentation (20 minutes total) will
be a combined effort. The written report is due April 10 and the
oral presentations will be on April 10. The lab report will be worth
100 points and the oral presentation will be worth 50 points for a total
of 150 points.
Network Use Assignments:
Assignment 1: Get a copy of this syllabus off of the Internet but Wednesday.
Assignment 2: Create a file in a word processor of your choice. Save
the document as a text file and include that file to me in another e-mail
message (this is a second message). I will cover the specifics for this
assignment in a laboratory class. Both assignment 1 and 2 must be completed
one week before the first journal assignment is due as you will use these
techniques to submit your papers. Due the end of the second week of
the term. (20 points)
Assignment 3: One way science may be changed by the Internet is by the
use of electronic journals. For example, the American Psychological Association
supports one journal called Psycoloquy. For the Hanover College
Psychology Department, I maintain a list of on-line psychological journals.
Most of them do not have actual articles but some like Psycoloquy
do. Search these journals and find one that deals with Sensation and Perception.
Print it out and hand it in. Due the end of the third week of the term.
Participation in and regular attendance of classroom activities and discussions
will be worth 125 points. I expect each student to participate fully in
discussions in class and laboratories. These discussions are integral to
getting the greatest possible benefit from this class.
I grade on a point system which means that each assignment of the course
is worth a certain amount of points towards the final grade. When you get
an assignment back you will be given a grade with the points earned over
the total number of points. Thus, you should be able to follow your progress
in the course on your own. There are a total of 1200 points in this course.