Sensation & Perception

PSYCH 333 - Spring 2009

Monday-Thurs 11.30-12.20

SMI 205

Instructor: Ione Fine,

Instructor office Hours: Guthrie 233, Tues & Thurs 10:30-11.15 or by appointment

TA office hours:

(You can go to any set of office hours, regardless of what section you are in.)

Sungjun Joo 1-2 Monday, Chem Library 130;

Jon Howe 1.30-2.30 Tuesday, Chem Library 130;

Most of us think of sensation and perception as easy.  We see, feel, hear, touch and smell effortlessly, whereas other mental functions like language and memory seem much more difficult and prone to disorders. But the fact that sensory processing seems easy is actually extraordinary. Did you know that about half of your brain is devoted to sensory perception?  Perceiving our world seems easy because we devote a vast amount of 'neural hardware' to it.

Our senses aren't perfect, however.  Look at the image above.  Would you believe that the two checkers marked 'A' and 'B' are actually the same color? In this class we'll learn about illusions like these. We'll also learn how the latest technology allows us to measure the brain's responses to various sensory stimuli, and look at the adaptations that occur within people who are blind and deaf.


You can either buy a hardcopy version of Sensation & Perception 2nd edition by Wolfe, Kluender & Levi or buy the electronic version

(The 1st edition is also fine; a copy of the 2nd edition will be on reserve Odegard library early next week.)

Quiz Sections:

Quiz sections meet each week on Fridays and will provide a forum for discussion and answering of specific questions, hands-on demonstrations to illustrate selected concepts. Quiz sections will also provide a venue for the research presentation part of the course. Quiz sections before each exam will serve as review sessions. 
Material presented during section will show up on the exams.

There will be five components to your grade:

Why 133%? Because you are allowed to drop the worst grade. This means that no make-up exams/papers will be given except in cases of serious illness (w. doctors note) or documented family emergencies.

Grades are posted in catalyst


Schedule of lectures
    Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
1 3/30-4/3 Chapter 1 (Intro) Chapter 1 Chapter 2 (1st steps) Chapter 2 Refresher on neurons + tutorial on CollectIt and Grade Book
2 4/6-4/10 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 (Spatial vision) Chapter 3 Chapter 3 Organize research presentation + Demo of auditory psychophysics (2 alt FC discrimination threshold & Webers' Law)
3 4/13-4/17 Chapter 4 (Objects) Chapter 4 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 (Color) Organize research paper + Illusion Demos
4 4/20-4/24 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 (Depth/Size) Chapter 6 Chapter 7 (Motion) How to do a short answer question + Binocular Rivalry Demos
5 4/27-5/1 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 (Attention) Chapter 8 Chapter 8 Demos + Review
6 5/4-5/8 Chapter 8 Mike May video Video cont. + Q&A Midterm Research Presentations
7 5/11-5/15 Chapter 9 (Covey notes) (Audition) Chapter 9 Chapter 9 (Ione notes) Chapter 10 (Audition in space) Research Presentations
8 5/18-5/22 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 (Music) Chapter 11 Chapter 11 Research Presentations
9 5/25-5/29 Memorial Day Chapter 12 (Touch) Chapter 12 (Touch & Pain) Chapter 13 (smell) Research Presentations + Demos
10 6/1-6/5 Chapter 13 & 14 (Taste) Chapter 15 (Vestibular) Cross-modal & Review Review

Review + Demos

Research paper due

Finals 6/8-6/12    

Final - 2.30-4.20 (SMI205)


Instructions on the research presentation

1. Choose a paper for your presentation from this list. There will be a stack of options in Section on 4/10. If you aren't there for section then email one of the TAs and you will be assigned a paper. You must do this by Monday 4/13 5pm or you will not be assigned a paper and you will be given a failing grade for this assignment. If you want to choose your own topic you can do this, but you have to email the TA with a suggested topic by Monday 5pm.

1. You can have a maximum of 4 slides. These should be Introduction (why they ran the experiment), Methods (what they did), Results (what they found) and Conclusions (what these findings mean and what questions remain unanswered).
You will be gonged after 5 min.

4. Your slides should be merged into a single powerpoint file and uploaded to CollectIt by 5pm Thurs before your presentation date.You should name your file as follows, using one of the members of your pair's name & Section number - e.g. Smith_Jane_AB_ResPres.ppt.

(TIPS: (a) If you don't know what a term means when you first read the paper, then the rest of the class won't either - DEFINE your terms (b) Don't fill your slide with too much text - part of a good presentation is knowing what information is important and what can be left out (c) Get together with some other students and use them as a practice audience. Get them to tell you what wasn't clear.)

Instructions on the research article.

You will write a newspaper article. Imagine you are a journalist, and your editor tells you that she needs a science article on the topic of sensation and perception for the science pages. You need to choose a topic this can either be a single research finding or a general topic in sensation and perception. You should then do research on the topic and write an original article in the style of a magazine or newspaper article. You should list your information sources at the end of the article. If you aren't sure you've chosen a suitable topic, check with the TAs.

The word count should be between 1000-2000 words. You should name your file as follows, using your name & Section number - e.g. Smith_Jane_AB_ResPaper.doc. The paper must be uploaded to CollectIt by 5pm 6/5.

Grading will be based on accuracy, information content and readability.

Examples of some beautiful science writing are here (This is a zip archive, right click and select unzip to turn it into a normal folder). You should read one or two to get an idea of what I am looking for.

(TIPS: (a) Make sure you are clear why this topic is interesting. Maybe try to relate it to your readers' experiences (b) You will get a better grade for a short well written article then a long badly written one, (c)Don't try to condense a science article you find somewhere else - we can tell and you will receive a failing grade.)

Learning Goals
Mastery of Content:
1.       Students will broaden, deepen and reinforce the basic working knowledge about the structure and function of the nervous system acquired in Psych 202.
2.       Students will develop a basic working knowledge of classical psychophysics.
3.       Students will develop a basic working knowledge about the structure and function of the gustatory system, olfactory system, somatosensory system, visual system, and auditory system.
4.       Students will develop an understanding of the relation between biological systems, neural processing mechanisms, and perception.
This will include understanding the how biological factors influence aspects of human perception that are shared across, or may differ across, cultural, ethnic, gender, geographic, or other boundaries.
5.       Students will develop an appreciation of properties common to all sensory systems, and properties shared by sensory systems and other brain systems.
6.       Students will develop an understanding of the study of sensory systems and processes within the historical context of the field, and potential future directions of the field.
This includes understanding the tentative nature of knowledge, tolerating ambiguity, and using skeptical inquiry to discover discrepancies and/or gaps in current knowledge.

Mastery of Skills:
1.       Students will develop the ability to identify an appropriate and tractable topic of study within a general scientific field.
2.       Students will develop and refine their ability to perform a directed scientific literature search, create an appropriate bibliography, and cite literature appropriately in support of written statements.
3.       Students will develop and refine their ability to critically read and understand scientific literature, understand and use scientific and technical vocabulary, and synthesize information from multiple sources.
This will include deepening their understanding of how hypothesis testing is used to evaluate theories about the function of sensory and perceptual processes.
You will also improve your ability to evaluate research evidence to assess the strength of support for scientific claims.
4.       Students will refine their scientific writing skills, focusing on choice of content, organization, logic, and clarity of expression.
5.       Students will refine their oral presentation skills, focusing on choice of content, organization, design and use of visual aids, pacing, and speaking style.

1.       Students will be encouraged to reflect on the information they learn about sensory processing and perception and apply it to their own lives and the world around them.

Course Policies
1. Attendance at all lectures is expected. You will be held responsible for all announcements made during class meetings regarding exam scheduling and assignment due dates. 
I will post announcements to the course website, but, in general, you’ll get the information soonest if you are in class.  
2. If you miss an exam, you will be given a grade of 0 for that exam. No make up exams will be given unless extenuating circumstances prevail.
In general, I will allow make up exams or replace an exam with a writing assignment (at my discretion) for things like important family occasions (e.g. weddings/graduations). But only if you talk to me at least a week before the examination.
If you miss an exam without talking to me beforehand then a makeup exam/alternative assignment will only be given in the case of a serious emergency (family emergency or serious illness/injury). Documentation will be required (airline ticket receipt, funeral notice, doctor’s case note, not appointment card).  There are no exceptions to this policy.

Important University Policies
Academic dishonesty:
The University of Washington has a set of guidelines on how to respond to suspected cases of academic dishonesty, or "cheating."
These cases include plagiarism in written assignments (copying directly from the text or another student’s work) and referring to contraband or getting help from someone else in testing situations.
You should familiarize yourself with these guidelines. If you have any questions about the boundary about what is or isn't acceptable, ask me or the TA to clarify.
As a student at the University of Washington you are held to "high standards of academic and professional honesty and integrity" by the Student Conduct Code.
The Student Conduct Code can be read on the University’s homepage.
If academic dishonesty occurs, you will receive a grade of zero on that assignment or exam. I will then refer the matter to the Dean of Arts and Sciences.