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AP Psychology Notes Chapter 6 I. Sensing the World: Some Basic Principles a. Sensation and Perception i.

Sensationthe process by which our sensory receptors and nervous system receive and represent stimulus energies from our environment ii. Perceptionthe process of organizing and interpreting sensory information, eneabling us to recognize meaningful objects and events iii. Bottom-up processinganalysis that begins with the sensory receptors and works up to the brains integration of sensory information iv. Our minds interpret what our senses direct v. Top-down processinginformation processing guided by higher level mental processes, as when we construct perceptions drawing on our experience and expectations vi. What stimuli cross our threshold for conscious awareness b. Thresholds i. Psychophysicsthe study of the relationships between the physical characteristics of stimuli, such as their intensity, and our psychological experience of them ii. Absolute thresholds 1. To some kinds of stimuli we are exquisitely sensitive 2. Absolute thresholdthe minimum stimulation needed to detect a particular stimulus 50 percent of the time 3. Absolute thresholds may vary with age iii. Signal detection 1. Detecting a weak stimulus, or signal, depends not only on the signals strength but also on our psychological stateour experience, expectations, motivation, and alertness\ 2. Signal detection theorya theory predicting how and when we detect the presence of a faint stimulus (signal) amid background stimulation (noise). Assumes there is no single absolute threshold and that detection depends partly on a persons experience, expectations, motivation, and level of fatigue a. Signal detection is measured as a ratio of hits to false alarms 3. Signal detection theorists seek to understand why people respond differently to the same stimuli, and why the same persons reactions vary as circumstances change 4. Examples a. Parents noticing faint whimper from a newborns cradle b. Soldiers in Iraq firing their weapons at the slightest noise c. People moitoring an airport x-ray scanner, an intensive care nursing station, or radar blips iv. Subliminal Stimulation 1. Subliminalbelow ones threshold for conscious awareness 2. Claims that unheard messages will influence our behavior make 2 assumptions: a. We can unconsciously sense subliminal stimuli b. Without our awareness, these stimuli have extraordinary suggestive powers 3. Is this true? a. Yes and no


i. Under certain conditions, an invisible image or word can briefly prime your response to a later question ii. Primingthe activation, often unconsciously, of certain associations, thus predisposing ones perception, memory, or response 4. Sometimes we feel what we do not know and cannot describe 5. Much of our information processing occurs automatically, out of sight, off the radar screen of our conscious mind 6. Laboratory research reveals a subtle, fleeting, effect v. Difference thresholds 1. Difference thresholdthe minimum difference between two stimuli required for detection 50 percent of the time. We experience the difference threshold as a just noticeable difference (or jnd) 2. Webers Lawthe principle that, to be perceived as different, two stimuli must differ by a constant minimum percentage (rather than a constant amount) c. Sensory Adaptation i. Sensory adaptationdiminished sensitivity as a consequence of constant stimulation ii. After constant exposure to a stimulus, our nerve cells fire less frequently iii. Why does this not work on sight? 1. Because, unnoticed by us, our eyes are always moving, flitting from one spot to another enough to guarantee that stimulation on the eyes receptors continually changes iv. Although sensory adaptation reduces our sensitivity, it offers an important benefit: freedom to focus on informative changes in our environment without being distracted bu the constant chatter of uninformative background stimulation v. We perceive the world not exactly as it is, but as it is useful for us to perceive it Vision a. Transductionconversion of one form of energy into another. In sensation, the transforming of stimulus energies, such as sights, sounds, and smells, into neural impulses our brains can interpret b. The stiumulus input: light energy i. What we see as visible light is but a thin slice of the whole spectrum of electromagnetic radiation ii. 2 physical characteristics of light that help determine our sensory experience of them: 1. Lights wavelengththe distance from one wave peak to the next determines its hue (the color we experience) 2. Intensitythe amount of energy in light waves (determined by a waves amplitude, or height)influences brightness c. The eye i. Light enters the eye through the cornea, which protects the eye and bends light to provide focus ii. The light then passes through the pupil, the adjustable opening in the center of the eye through which light enters iii. The pupil is surrounded by the iris, a ring of muscle tissue that forms the colored portion of the eye around the pupil and controls the size of the pupil opening 1. The iris dilates or constricts in response to light intensity and even to inner emotions

iv. Behind the pupil is a lens, a transparent structure that changes shape to help focus images on the retina v. The retina is the light-sensitive inner surface of the eye containing the receptor rods and cones, plus layers of neurons that begin the processing of visual information vi. Accommodationthe process by which the eyes lens changes shape to focus near or far objects on the retina vii. The retina doesnt see a whole image. Rather its millions of receptor cells convert particles of light energy into neural impulses and forward those to the brain. There, the impulses are reassembled into a perceived, upright-seeming image viii. The Retina 1. Rodsretinal receptors that detect black, white, and gray; necessary for peripheral and twilight vision, when cones dont respond 2. Conesretinal receptor cells that are concentrated near the center of the retina and that function in daylight or in well-lit conditions. The cones detect fine detail and give rise to color sensations 3. Light energy triggers chemical changes in the rods and cones that spark neural signals, activation neighboring bipolar cells. The bipolar cells in turn activate the neighboring ganglion cells 4. The axons from the network of ganglion cells converge, like strands of rope, to form the optic nerve 5. Optic nervethe nerve that carries neural impulses from the eye to the brain 6. Blind spotthe point at which the optic nerve leaves the eye, creating a blind spot because no receptor cells are located there 7. Rods and cones differ in their geography and in the tasks they handle a. Cones i. Cluster in and around the foveathe retinas area of central focus ii. Many cones have their own hotline to the brainbipolar cells that help relay the cones individual message to the visual cortex, which devotes a large area of input to the fovea iii. Better at detecting fine detail iv. Enable you to perceive color v. Ineffectual in dim light vi. b. Rods i. Predominate in the peripheral region of the retina ii. Enable black and white vision iii. Remain sensitive in dim light 8. When you enter a dark room, your pupils dilate to allow more light to reach your retina d. Visual information processing i. Visual info retina thalamus brains visual cortex (occipital lobe) ii. Feature Detection 1. Feature detectorsnerve cells in the brain that respond to specific features of the stimulus, such as the shape, angle, or movement


2. Feature detectors in the visual cortex pass such information to other cortical areas where teams of cells (supercell clusters) respond to more complex patterns iii. Parallel Processing 1. Parallel processingthe processing of many aspects of a problem simultaneously; the brains natural mode of information processing for many functions, including vision. Contrasts with the step-by-step (serial) processing of most computers and of conscious problem solving 2. Te brain divides a visual scene into subdimensions, such as color, form, movement, and depth, and works on each aspect simultaneously 3. Facial recognition requires tremendous brain power 4. Blindsighta localized area of blindness in part of the field of vision a. Blindsight subjects can intuitively guess what the orientation of sticks in their blind field is b. Same goes for normal subjects when their visual cortex is temporarily shut down by magnetic pulses e. Color vision i. Color is our mental constructionit resides in not in the object but in the theater of our brains ii. Young-Helmholtz trichromatic (three-color) theorythe theory that the retina contains three different color receptorsone most sensitive to red, one to green, and one to bluewhich, when stimulated in combination, can produce the perception of any color iii. Ewald Hering investigated this theory and soon discovered that there must be two additional color processes, one responsible for red vs. green perception and one for blue vs. yellow 1. Afterimages 2. Opponent colors 3. Opponent-process theorythe theory that opposing retinal processes (red-green, yellow-blue, white-black) enable color vision. For example, some cells are stimulated by green and inhibited by red; others are stimulated by red and inhibited by green Hearing a. For humans, vision is the major sense b. Like many senses, our audition, or hearing, is highly adaptive i. Wide range of sounds ii. Faint sounds iii. Variations in sounds c. The Stimulus input: sound waves d. We hear by both air and bone conduction e. The strength, or amplitude of sounds waves, determines their loudness f. Waves also vary in length, and therefore in frequency; their frequency determines the pitch we experience i. Long waves have low frequencyand low pitch ii. Short waves have high frequencyand high pitch iii.