Office Hours: 

T: 3-4
W: 8-9,  3-4
F: 10-11

January 16, 2001
I have posted the office hours above and placed the class software link on the navigation bar to the left.

January 8, 2001
Welcome back from Christmas Break.  I hope you are well rested.   I am really looking forward to this class.  I hope you have as much fun as I know I will.

Look here for future announcements about the course


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 course.

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.

  1. Background
    1. Philosophical Basis of Sensation and Perception
    2. Week 1 M
      Jan 8
      pp. 1-14
    3. Biological Basis of Sensation and Perception
    4. Week 1 WF pp.   551-558
      Review Structure of Neuron:
      Review Action Potential:


  2. Vision
    1. The Physics and Anatomy of Vision
    2. Week 2
      Jan 15  Week 3 M
      Jan 22
      pp. 50-83
      Scans of the Eye
      Receptive Fields Tutorial:
      Receptive Field PowerPoint File
    3. Fundamental Limits of Visual Functioning
    4. Week 3
      pp. 85-99
      Effects of Receptor (Sampling) Density

      Week 4 M Examination #1
      Jan 29

    5. Form (Two-dimensional Structure)
    6. Week 4
      pp. 99-118; 284-320
      Fourier Analysis Tutorial: 
      Receptive Field as Edge Detector
      Demonstrations:  Effects of Edges, Gestalt Demonstrations, Top-Down
    7. Chromatic Aspects of Vision
    8. Week 5 
      Feb 5
      pp. 120-148
      Demonstrations: Three Color Mixer,Color Gamut and the CIE Diagram, Color Aftereffect; Simultaneous Color Contrast
    9. E. Motion Perception
    10. Week 6
      Feb 12
      pp. 403-430
      Demonstrations: Induced Motion
    11. The Third Dimension (Depth)
    12. Week 6 F
      Week 7 MW
      Feb 19
      pp. 251-276
      Vision and Art Tutorial: 

      Powerpoint Slides on Motion Parallax 
      Motion Parallax Example 

      Powerpoint Slides on Vergence 
      Powerpoint Slides on Binocular Disparity 

      Week 7 F Examination #2

    13. Constancy and Illusions
    14. Week 8
      Mar 5
      pp. 323-345
      Parts of Vision and Art Tutorial 
      Demonstration: Testing Emmert's Law, Size Constancy in a Photograph


  3. Audition
    1. Physics and Anatomy of Audition
    2. Week 8 
      pp. 151-178
      Fourier Analysis Tutorial:
    3. Perceptual Functions of Audition
    4. Week 9
      Mar 12 
      pp. 178-208; 347-376
      PowerPoint Slides:
      Missing Fundamental 
      Auditory Space

      Week 10 M Examination #3
      Mar 19

  4. Other Senses
    1. Skin Senses
    2. Week 10  WF
      Week 11 MW
      Mar 26
      pp. 226-248
    3. Chemical Senses (Gustation and Olfaction)
    4. Week 11 F 
      Week 12 M
      Apr 2
      pp. 210-226


  5. Interaction of Senses (Orientation as an Example)
  6. Week 12 WF
    Week 13 M
    Apr 9
    pp. 430-433
  7. Perceptual Development
    1. Development of Sensory Processes
    2. Week 13 W pp. 469-497
    3. Development of Sensory Integration
    4. Week 13 F pp. 499-530


Apr 16-20 Final Examination (During Final Examination Period)


Laboratory Schedule:

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."

Week Laboratory Topic Assignment Type
1 Psychophysical Methods I: Absolute Thresholds (Read Ch 2)
Signal Detection Tutorial
Requires Office 2000, we have it in SH208
2 Psychophysical Methods II: Psychophysical Laws (Read Ch 2) Problems from both weeks
3 Optics   Demonstration
4 Blakemore-Sutton Effect I
5 Blakemore-Sutton Effect II/Project Proposal Due Report
6 Color Vision Laboratory Problems
7 Stereoscopic Size Constancy I
8 Stereoscopic Size Constancy II Report
9 Masking Level Difference Problems
10 Muelller-Lyer Illusion Demonstration
11 Skin Senses Problems
12 Off

Assignments and Examinations:

Homework Assignments.

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.

Exam #1 75 points
Exam #2 100 points
Exam #3 125 points
Exam #4 200 points

Laboratory Assignments.

Grading and Class Policies:

Class Participation:

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.

Late Policy:

An assignment is late 1 minute after the beginning of class. One letter grade will be subtracted for the first day late and another letter grade for each additional day, also beginning at the time of class plus one minute.


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.

Grades will be assigned as follows:




















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