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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, enabling us to recognize meaningful objects and events.


The activation, often unconsciously, of certain associations, thus predisposing one's perception, memory, or response.


Below one's absolute threshold for conscious awareness

Bottom-up processing

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

Difference Threshold

The minimum difference between two stimuli required for detection 50 percent of the time. We experience the difference threshold as a just noticeable difference. JND

Top-Down Processing

Information processing guided by higher-level mental processes, as when we construct perceptions drawing on our experience and expectations.

Weber's Law

The principle that, to be perceived as different, two stimuli must differ by a constant minimum percentage (rather than a constant amount)


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

Sensory adaptation

Diminished sensitivity as a consequence of constant stimulation.

Absolute Threshold

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

Selective Attention

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

Signal Detection Theory

A theory predicting how and when we detect the presence of a faint stimulus (signal) amid background stimulation (noise). Assumes there is no single absolute threshold and that detection depends partly on a person's experience, expectations, motivation, and level of fatigue.

Inattentional Blindness

Failing to see visible objects when our attention is directed elsewhere.

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