Others by appointment
Sep 4, 2017
I hope that all of you had a wonderful summer.
I am really looking forward to this class. I
hope that you have as much fun as I know I will.
Look here for future announcements about the course
Welcome you to Sensation and Perception and thank you for
joining me on this journey into both the mystery and knowledge that we have of
an aspect of our mind that most of us take for granted: our senses. Broadly speaking, the study of sensation and perception is the study of how an
organism's brain knows what is going on in the world around it. To help you appreciate the questions
that scientists studying sensation and perception struggle with, think of the captain of a
ship far out to sea. What does that captain need to know to safely sail the ship? The captain must be able to detect
obstacles, other ships, and weather conditions such as storms that may
effect the operation and safety of the ship. To perform these functions, the captain has
radar, sonar and other sensor systems to gain information about the ocean 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. A limited analogy can be drawn between your brain or mind
captain. 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 and
sonar which provides necessary information to guide behavior. You also have sensory systems that
obtain information about the state of your body such as your position relative to the
This course is part of the Natural World LADR. Let
me quote from the Hanover College catalog for a description of the liberal arts:
The liberal arts are arts suited for free people. The purpose of a liberal
arts education is to enable such people to cultivate humanity, to realize their
full potential as human beings and as citizens. Accordingly, the liberal arts
are designed to equip individuals to develop and integrate every dimension of
their own humanity--physical, intellectual, artistic, ethical, and
spiritual--and to understand and respect the humanity of others. (p. 8)
This course fits this description in many
ways. I want to highlight only a few. First, to develop ourselves,
we must know ourselves. Our senses are among the most misunderstood
aspects of our human nature. Thus, in this course will be working against a
large body of misunderstanding. Second, issues
in this course are applicable to the way we interact with art and technology in
the world around us. As such, this course can help us integrate knowledge
from many areas into a more coherent view of the world and ourselves.
Due to the fact that this course plays many different types of
roles in the college, I have grouped the objectives into different categories.
Depending upon the reason you are in this course, you may not see a need for all
of the objectives. However, the objectives all work together and the first two
sets of objectives actually are vehicles to support the higher level objectives
which are the real reason for taking any course.
Course Specific Objectives:
The specific objective of this course is to develop your understanding of how our sensory
systems operate to gain information about the world around us. 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 indirect and interpretive nature of the
information our senses
provide. You will have to leave many of these intuitions behind, because there are
many surprises in how our sensory systems actually operate.
Role of Course in the Major:
In the psychology major, this course is one of the options for a basic or 200 level
experimental psychology course. Experimental psychology traditionally has
referred to those areas of psychology that have emphasized the laboratory and
experimental methods for its research. Thus, areas such as sensation and
perception, cognition, and learning have fallen under this general rubric.
Many fundamental findings that drive most of our speculation about the nature of
the human mind are based on findings in these areas.
As a result of this placement of sensation and perception in
the major, the course is designed to give you a fundamental introduction to
experimental methods and ideas using this topic. The other course at this
level of the major is PSY162 Neuropsychology. Together these courses are often grouped
under the rubric of biological psychology and, thus, present how biological
knowledge and approaches have been used to facilitate understanding in
psychology. So while there are many non-biological approaches to sensation
and perception and they will be covered, there is a need to make sure you
understand the basics of the nervous system and how this basic understanding
yields important insights for psychology.
This course also needs to provide a foundation of basic experimental methods
as used in the laboratory areas of psychology. In the advanced
experimental course in psychology you
will be expected to design your own experimental project in the area of that
course and to execute that project. So, the laboratory section is designed
to help you get experience with the various components of how experiments are
conducted in experimental psychology so that you will be prepared to conduct
your project in the advanced course.
Role of Course in the Core Curriculum (LADR: NW or CCR: SL): Many of you are taking this course to fulfill one of the science requirements, either under the olde LADR curriculum or as part of the new curriculum, as CCR. Here are few of my goals, taken from the LADRs and CCRs. The central aims are to:
- expose students to the nature and limits of scientific knowledge and mathematical and/or algorithmic reasoning,
- expose students to the language, theory, and practice of disciplines within the scientific, mathematical and/or algorithmic realms, and
- expose students to scientific methodology and the connections between scientific theory and physical phenomena.
Objectives Connected to the Liberal Arts:
This course connects to the liberal arts in several ways. Science is a traditional and fundamental area of study in the liberal arts.
Science is different from many of the other areas of knowledge by its apparent
ability to build a body of knowledge that is to some degree cumulative and some knowledge can gain
a very wide degree of acceptance by practitioners of that field. It is
these characteristics that has led to the claim, made by some, that scientific knowledge is
more objective that other disciplines. But, science is not a fixed set of
facts to be learned, but a constantly changing
and evolving body of knowledge like any other scholarly field you find taught at
Hanover College. To understand science, in fact to understand any
discipline taught here at Hanover, requires one to understand how the field
learns and expands its horizon and critiques its past knowledge. Thus,
this class will emphasize the data and reasoning that leads researchers in
sensation and perception to certain conclusions and in the class we will be
asked to critique these data and the consequent reasoning. In addition,
one feature of the liberal
arts is that it prepares people "to lead deliberate, examined lives." (Catalog,
However, one facet of our lives that often goes little examined is how it is
possible that we can sense and perceive the world around us and how these
mechanisms that make sensation and perception affect our lives. By making
you aware of these mechanisms a more aware life is possible.
Read material and use media before coming to class. In
class, we will not simply present the material from the text but examine the material.
Class is for working on understanding, applications, covering of new material. Thus, familiarity with the
material prior to class is vital.
The labs will be a chance to delve into some of the methods of the field.
Sensation and perception has developed a set of methods that are unique, even
within psychology. These methods have demonstrated their usefulness by
being the basis for many applications you run into on a daily basis.
No Electronic Devices in Class: That means no phones, no handheld
devices, no laptops, no tablets, etc. are to be used at all during class.
Turn assignments in on time. A letter grade
is lost for each late day and nothing will be accepted more than three days
late. Late is defined as one minute after the start time of class.
Participation in Class. As much of this
class will be an investigation into the meaning of the findings we discuss we
need all of you to ask questions, suggest ideas and critique other people's
ideas, including mine.
Seek help as you need it. Unfortunately my
training in psychology has not made me a mind reader. If you are
having troubles seek help from me and/or fellow students before the latter part
of the term. Seek the help as soon as the trouble begins. That
requires you thinking about the material and not just memorizing so that you
know if you really understand it.
Dec 12-16 Final Examination (During Final Examination Period)
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.
Assignments and Examinations:
Throughout the term there will be homework problems
assigned. They will be due the next class day. Problems will come
from the problems at the end of the text chapters and from others I will hand
out in class. Often they will require the use of the text media.
Problems of this sort will also be on the exams. Homework will be collected
and graded and will total to 100 points.
There will be three tests. The tests will be a combination
format of short answer items (such as identification) and longer essays. 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 table.
There will be several types of laboratory assignments including problems,
data analysis, graphing of results, and laboratory reports. These assignments
are listed above in the schedule of the laboratories and will be described
more in the labs where they are involved. However, the labs have a
cumulative set of purposes. These purposes are two-fold: to develop
skills at experimentation using the methods of sensation and perception and to
develop skills at critically analyzing the results of these experiments.
Thus, assignments such as graphing may seem purely as a skill, but even here,
how one graphs can greatly impact the way we interpret data. Thus,
understanding the impact of how a graph is constructed on interpretation can
assist in a critical understanding of data.
The different types of assignments will be worth different point values
depending on the size of the assignment. The points are listed in the
syllabus above in the laboratory schedule.
The information for the format and
guidelines for the laboratory format are here. For the final lab, Critical Bands, you will be asked to do a short in class group presentation relating to the results you have found. We will discuss the presentation and its expectations when we get to the lab.
One of the Natural World LADR objectives is to show you different ways that
science is conducted (see objective 2 above). However, this class can only
show a small number of methods. So this assignment is to give you
experience with alternative methods, but from a psychological perspective.
You can earn this credit in three ways. First, you can participate in research
that is being conducted by faculty members or students of Hanover College. By
participating in these studies, you can gain valuable, first-hand knowledge
about how research is conducted. You will receive up to 100 points
for participation in three different studies. To receive credit, you MUST: a) obtain the
signature of the researcher, and b) answer some basic questions about the nature
and purpose of the study [see
Research Participation Form]. Second, you can substitute two online studies
for any one Hanover study found on this site:
http://psych.hanover.edu/research/exponnet.html. While you cannot get
the researchers signature you must still fill out the questions [see
attached Online Participation Form]. Third, you can obtain the credit
by writing a 2-page summary and critique of an approved psychological journal
article. The guidelines are here.
You must complete two of these assignments by the end of the term. You may
earn extra credit by completing two more of these assignments for up to 20
points each. The Research Participation Forms and/or Article Critiques will be
collected the Friday before the beginning of dead week.
Participation in and regular attendance of classroom activities and discussions will be
worth 100 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 in addition to being a part of the development of your speaking
An assignment is late one 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. Nothing will be accepted
more than three days late.
This class is graded 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.
The table below summarize the grading for each class assignment.
Size Constancy Lab
Critical Bands Presentation
Critical Bands Lab
Grades will be converted to percentiles and letter grades will be assigned as