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Vocabulary for Chapter 3 in Ciccarelli's Psychology Book


the process that occurs when special receptors in the sense organs are activated, allowing various forms of outside stimuli to become neural signals in the brain


the process of converting outside stimuli into neural activity

absolute threshold

the lowest level of stimulation that a person can consciously detect 50% of the time the stimulation is preset


tendency of the brain to stop attending to constant, unchanging information

sensory adaptation

tendency of sensory receptor cells to become less responsive to a stimulus that is unchanging

visual accommodation

the change in the thickness of the lens as the eye focuses on objects that are far away or close


visual sensory receptors found at the back of the retina responsible for non-color sensitivity to low levels of light


visual sensory receptors found at the back of the retina, responsible for color vision and sharpness

blind spot

area in the retina where the axons of the three layers of retinal cells exit the eye to form the optic nerve, insensitive to light

dark adaptation

the recovery of the eye's sensitivity to visual stimuli in darkness after exposure to bright lights

light adaptation

the recovery of the eye's sensitivity to visual stimuli in light after exposure to darkness

trichromatic theory

theory of color vision that proposes three types of cones: red, blue, and green


images that occur when a visual sensation persists for a brief time even after the original stimulus is removed

opponent-process theory

theory of color vision that proposes visual neurons are stimulated by light of one color and inhibited by light of another color


cycles or waves per second, a measurement of frequency


the visible part of the ear

auditory canal

short tunnel that runs from the pinna to the eardrum


snail-shaped structure of the inner ear that is filled with fluid

auditory nerve

bundle of axons from the hair cells in the inner ear


psychological experience of sound that corresponds to the frequency of the sound waves; higher frequencies are perceived as higher pitches

place theory

theory of pitch that states that different pitches are experienced by the stimulation of hair cells in different locations on the organ of Corti

frequency theory

theory of pitch that pitch is related to the speed of vibrations in the basilar membrane

volley principle

theory of pitch that states that frequencies from about 400Hz to 4000Hz cause the auditory neurons to fire in a volley pattern, or take turns firing


the sensation of taste


the sensation of smell

olfactory bulbs

areas of the brain located just above the sinus cavity and just below the frontal lobes that receive information from the olfactory receptor cells

somesthetic senses

the body senses consisting of the skin senses, the kinesthetic sense, and the vestibular senses

skin senses

the sensation of touch, pressure, temperature, and pain

kinesthetic sense

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

vestibular senses

the senses of movement, balance, and body position

sensory conflict theory

an explanation of motion sickness in which the information from the eyes conflicts with the information from the vestibular senses, resulting in dizziness, nausea, and other physical discomfort


the method by which the sensations experienced at any given moment are interpreted and organized in some meaningful fashion

size constancy

the tendency to interpret an object as always be the same actual size, regardless of its distance

shape constancy

the tendency to interpret the shape of an object as being constant, even when its shape changes on the retina

brightness constancy

the tendency to perceive the apparent brightness of an object as the smae even when the light conditions change


the tendency to perceive objects or figures as existing on a background

reversible figures

visual illusions in which the figure and ground can be reversed


the tendency to perceive objects that are close to each other as part of the same grouping


the tendency to perceive things that look similar to each other as being part of the same group


the tendency to complete figures that are incomplete


the tendency to perceive things as simply as possible with a continuous pattern, rather than a complex, broken-up pattern


the tendency to perceive two things that happen close together in time as being related

depth perception

the ability to perceive the world in three dimensions

monocular cues

also known as pictoral depth cues; cues for perceiving depth based on one eye only

binocular cues

cues for perceiving depth based on both eyes

linear perspective

the tendency for parallel lines to appear to converge on each other

relative size

perception that occurs when objects that a person expects to be of a certain size appear to be small and are, therefore, assumed to be much farther away


also known as interposition; the assumption that an object that appears to be blocking part of another object is in front of the second object an closer to the viewer

aerial perspective

also known as atmospheric perspective; the haziness that surrounds objects that are farther away from the view, causing the distance to be perceived as greater

texture gradient

the tendency for textured surfaces to appear to become smaller and finer as distance from the viewer increases

motion parallax

the perception of motion of objects in which close objects appear to move more quickly than objects that are farther away


as a monocular cue, the brain's use of information about the changing thickness of the lens of the eye in response to looking at objects that are close or far away


the rotation of the two eyes in their sockets to focus on a single object, resulting in greater convergence for closer objects and lesser convergence if objects are distant

binocular disparity

the difference in images between the two eyes, which is greater for objects that are close and smaller for distant objects

Muller-Lyer illusion

illusion of line length that is distorted by inward-turning or outward-turning corners on the ends of the lines, causing lines of equal length to appear to be different

perceptual set

also known as perceptual expectancy; the tendency to perceive things a certain way because previous experiences or expectations influence those perceptions

top-down processing

the use of preexisting knowledge to organize individual features into a unified whole

bottom-up processing

the analysis of the smaller features to build up to a complete perception


integrated experience of sensations

sensory receptors

special neurons used for sensation


happens in the brain; ability to ignore constant stimuli


happens in the sensory receptor cells; sensory cells stop responding to a constant stimuli

sound waves

vibrating molecules of air

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