Topic 4: Perception

[Back to the course overview]

Lecture 8b: We introduce the vast topic of perception by considering the folk belief that we find out about the world through our 5 senses. The first thing we uncover is that the relation of the senses to our knowledge of the world (including our own body) is much more complex than that. We examine the many senses of touch, the role of the vestibular system, the less well understood topics of proprioception and interoception, and finally we examine the simplest visual system we know of, using the box jellyfish larva as our example.

Lecture 9: We discuss the cognitive neuroscientific view of visual processing in the brain, identifying two distinct streams, the dorsal and ventral streams, that appear to support two rather different kinds of task: the first to do with motion and orientation, the second to do with recognition and identification. We then cover both inattentional blindness and change blindness, which are instructive with regard to the purposive nature of vision.

Lecture 10: We wrap up our quick overview of perception, staying with vision, but drawing out the important role of attention and change, showing how what we see is not independent of our purposes, our activity, our expectation and our knowledge. We also dive into some fun visual illusions.

Readings etc:

The Illusion of the Year competition manages to provide fresh illusions, usually optical illusions, each year. In perusing these, ask yourself what we might learn from each. Why does it work? What are the conditions required to make it work. Pay special attention to any instructions that require you to fix your gaze at a single point.

Reality is not what it seems: the science behind why optical illusions mess with our minds. An article in Wired magazine about optical illusions.

Additional resources

An article from the BBC on the Thatcher Effect

One brain, two visual systems: A discussion of the two stream theory of Milner and Goodale from the Psychologist Magazine.

Mirror neurons: the most hyped concept in neuroscience? From Psychology Today.