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Myers' Psychology for AP*


the process by which our sensory receptors and nervous system receive and represent stimulus energies from our environment


the process of organizing and interpreting sensory information

bottom-up processing

analysis that begins with the sense receptors and works up to the brain's integration of sensory information

top-down processing

information processing guided by higher-level mental processes

absolute threshold

the minimum stimulation needed to detect a particular stimulus 50% of the time

difference threshold

the minimum difference between two stimuli required for detection 50 percent of the time

signal detection theory

a theory predicting how and when we detect the presence of a faint stimulus ("signal") amid background stimulation ("noise")

sensory adaptation

diminished sensitivity as a consequence of constant stimulation

selective attention

the focusing of conscious awareness on a particular stimulus

inattentional blindess

failure to detect stimuli that are in plain sight when our attention is focused elsewhere

change blindess

failing to notice changes in the environment


below the level of consciousness


activation, often unconsciously, of particular associations in memory

weber's law

the principle that, to be perceived as different, two stimuli must differ by a constant minimum percentage


the transparent outer covering of the eye


a ring of muscle tissue that forms the colored portion of the eye around the pupil and controls the size of the pupil opening


the transparent structure behind the pupil that changes shape to help focus images on the retina


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


retinal receptors that detect black, white, and gray; necessary for peripheral and twilight vision, when cones don't respond


retinal receptor cells that are concentrated near the center of the retina and that function in daylight or in well-lit conditions, detect fine detail and give rise to color sensations

optic nerve

the nerve that carries neural impulses from the eye to the brain

blind spot

the point at which the optic nerve leaves the eye, creating a blind spot because no receptor cells are located there

trichromatic theory

idea that color vision is based on our sensitivity to three different colors: blue, green, and red

opponent-process theory

the theory that opposing retinal processes enable color vision


a tone's highness or lowness; depends on frequency

ear drum

a tightly stretched membrane at the end of the ear canal that vibrates when hit by sound waves

bones of the middle ear

the hammer, anvil, stirrup; vibrate with the eardrum


a coiled, bony, fluid-filled tube in the inner ear through which sound waves trigger nerve impulses

hair cells

receptor cells for hearing found in the cochlea

kinesthetic sense

sense of the location of body parts in relation to the ground and each other

vestibular sense

the sense of body movement and position, including the sense of balance

place theory

the idea that different sound frequencies stimulate different locations on the basilar membrane

frequency theory

that the rate of nerve impulses traveling up the auditory nerve matches the frequency of a tone, enabling us to sense its pitch

conduction hearing loss

hearing loss caused by damage to the hair cells that conducts sound waves to the cochlea

sensorineural hearing loss

hearing loss caused by damage to the cochlea's receptor cells or to the auditory nerves; also called nerve deafness

feature detectors

nerve cells in the brain that respond to specific features of the stimulus, such as shape, angle, or movement

cochlear implant

a device for converting sounds into electrical signals and stimulating the auditory nerve through electrodes threaded into the cochlea

sensory interaction

impulses from sensory receptors, the principle that one sense may influence another, as when the smell of food influences its taste

gate -control theory

the theory that the spinal cord contains a neurological "gate" that blocks pain signals or allows them to pass on to the brain


to integrate pieces of information into meaningful wholes


the organization of the visual field into objects that stand out from their surroundings


the perceptual tendency to organize stimuli into meaningful groups: proximity, similarity, continuity, connectedness, closure

depth perception

the ability to see objects in three dimensions although the images that strike the retina are two-dimensional, allows us to judge distance

visual cliff

a laboratory device for testing depth perception in infants and young animals

binocular cues

depth cues, such as retinal disparity, that depend on the use of two eyes

monocular cues

distance cues, such as linear perspective and overlap, available to either eye alone: relative height, relative size, interposition, linear perspective, relative motion, light and shadow

retinal disparity

a binocular cue for perceiving depth; by comparing images from the two eyeballs, the brain computes distance - the greater the disparity (difference) between the two images, the closer the object

perceptual constancy

perceiving objects as unchanging

perceptual set

mental predisposition to perceive one thing and not another

perceptual adaption

the ability to adjust to an artificially displaced or even inverted visual field


the study of paranormal phenomena, including ESP and psychokinesis

extrasensory perception

the controversial claim that perception can occur apart from sensory input. Said to include telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition.

color constancy

perceiving familiar objects as having consistent color, even if changing illumination alters the wavelengths reflected by the object

perceptual adaptation

in vision, the ability to adjust to an artificially displaced or even inverted visual field

phi phenomenon

an illusion of movement created when two or more adjacent lights blink on and off in quick succession

inner ear

the innermost part of the ear, containing the cochlea, semicircular canals, and vestibular sacs


the process by which the eye's lens changes shape to focus near or far objects on the retina


the central focal point in the retina, around which the eye's cones cluster

parallel processing

The processing of several aspects of a problem simultaneously; the brain's 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.


the sense or act of hearing


the number of complete wavelengths that pass a point in a given time


the adjustable opening in the center of the eye through which light enters


the amount of energy in a light or sound wave, which we perceive as brightness or loudness, as determined by the wave's amplitude


the dimension of color that is determined by the wavelength of light; what we know as the color names blue, green, and so forth


conversion 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.


The distance from the peak of one light or sound wave to the peak of the next. Electromagnetic wavelengths vary from the short blips of cosmic rays to the long pulses of radio transmission.


the study of relationships between the physical characteristics of stimuli, such as their intensity, and our psychological experience of them

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