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the detection of physical energy emitted or reflected by physical objects; it occurs when energy in the external environment or the body stimulates recepors in the sense organs


the process of organizing and interpreting sensory information, enabling us to recognize meaningful objects and events

sense receptors

Specialized cells that convert physical energy in the environment or body to electrical energy that can be transmitted as nerve impulses to the brain

doctrine of specific nerve energies

states that different sensory modalites exist because signals received by the sense organs stimulate different pathways leading to different areas of the brain


describing one kind of sensation in terms of another

absolute threshold

the lowest level of stimulation that a person can detect

difference threshold

the smallest change in stimulation that a person can detect

signal-detection theory

A theory predicting how and when we detect the presence of a faint stimulus amid background noise

sensory adaption

diminished sensitivity as a consequence of constant stimulation

sensory deprivation

the absence of normal levels of sensory stimulation.

selective attention

the focusing of conscious awareness on a particular stimulus, as in the cocktail party effect

inattentional blindness

failing to see visible objects when our attention is directed elsewhere


the quality of a color as determined by its dominant wavelength


intensity of reflected light that reaches our eyes


the intensity of a hue representing the amount of gray in proportion to hue


in front of eye, protects eye and bends incoming light toward lens


works by subtly changing its shape to detect objects far or near


controls the amout of light that enters the eye


lets light into the eye


neural tissue lining the back of the eyeball and contains the receptors for vision


respond to dim light, are periphery, and highly sensitive


have low sensitivity, are in the center of the retina, respond to color

dark adaption

a process by which visual receptors become maximally sensitive to dim light

ganglion cells

neurons in the retina of the eye that gather information from receptor cells by way of bipolar cells and their axons make up the optic nerve


in the visual cortex and are sensitive to specific features of the environment

face module

helps us to recognize faces

trichromatic theory

Visual theory, stated by Young and Helmholtz that all colors can be made by mixing the three basic colors: red, green, and blue; a.k.a the Young-Helmholtz theory.

opponent-process theory

the 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

form perception

how people organize the world visually into meaningful units and patterns


stand out from the rest of the envrionment, usually the lower part of a scene


not as noticable as the figure

gestalt principles

Principles that describe the brain's organization of sensory information into meaningful units and patterns.


a Gestalt principle of organization holding that (other things being equal) objects or events that are near to one another (in space or time) are perceived as belonging together as a unit


a Gestalt principle of organization holding that there is an innate tendency to perceive incomplete objects as complete and to close or fill gaps and to perceive asymmetric stimuli as symmetric


a Getalt principle of organization holding that (other things being equal) parts of a stimulus field that are similar to each other tend to be perceived as belonging together as a unit


gestalt law; sensations that appear to create a continuous form are perceived as belonging together (a whole)

binocular cues

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

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 close the object

monocular cues

depth cues, such as interposition and linear perspective, available to either eye alone


monocular visual cue in which two objects are in the same line of vision and one patially conceals the other, indicating that the first object concealed is further away

linear perspective

a monocular cue for perceiving depth; the more parallel lines converge, the greater their perceived distance

perceptual constancy

perceiving objects as unchanging (having consistent lightness, color, shape, and size) even as illumination and retinal images change

size constancy

perception of an object as the same size regardless of the distance from which it is viewed

shape constancy

tendency to see an object as the same shape no matter what angle it is viewed from

location constancy

perceiving something as remaining in the same place even though the retinal image changes as our point of view changes

brightness constancy

the tendency to perceive objects as retaining their brightness even when they are viewed in dim light

color constancy

the tendency for a color to look the same under widely different viewing conditions

loudness (intensity)

1) how LOUD or SOFT a sound is, depending
on the amount of ENERGY in the sound waves
2) measured in bels, decibels
[jet 90 dB; rustling leaves 20dB]

pitch (frequency)

frequency describes the physical periodic quality of a sound wave; pitch is a percept of that sound which depends not only on frequency content but also the sound pressure and waveform. A single pitch can be perceived from many frequencies.

timbre (quality)

the distinguishing quality of a sound; the dimension of auditory experience related to the complexity of the pressure wave

organ of corti

organ located in the cochlea; contains receptors (hair cells) that receive vibrations and generate nerve impulses for hearing


the snail-shaped tube (in the inner ear coiled around the modiolus) where sound vibrations are converted into nerve impulses by the Organ of Corti


hair cells that bend when sound enters the ear

proximity of notes

helps you to tell which notes go together to form phrases

continuity of sound

helps you to follow a melody on one violin when another violin plays a different melody

similarity in timbre

helps you to pick out the soprano voices in a chorus and hear them as a unit

closure in sound

helsp you to understand a cell-phone caller's words even when the signal is shakey


small rough elevations on tongue and roof of mouth; contain taste buds

taste buds

structures on the tongue that contain the receptor cells for taste


people who have the highest sentsitivity to all tastes, as well as mouth sensations in general


have normal sensitivity to taste


Not so sensitive to taste, seek out relatively sweeter or fattier foods to maximize taste.

gate-control theory

theory that spinal cord contains neurological gate that blocks pains signals or allows them to pass. gate is opened by activity of pain going up small nerve fibers & gate is closed by act of large fibers or by info coming from brain


tells us where our bodily parts are located and lets us know when they move


sense of balance

semicircular canals

the structures in the ear that are responsible for your sense of balance

visual cliff

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

critical period

a specific time in development when certain skills or abilities are most easily learned


An internal state of tension caused by disequilibrium from an ideal/desired physical or psychological state (like hunger)


what we hold to be true about the world can affect our interpretation of it


can influence our interpretation of sensory information, like when frightened children see a ghost and not a robe


previous experiences often affect how we perceive the world, often called a perceptual set

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