Sensation and Perception

University of Toronto St. George

An introduction to the physiological and psychological basis of perception across the different sensory modalities in humans and lower animals, with an emphasis on vision. Exploring visual perception such as shape and objects, scenes, colour, space, and motion as well as auditory perception of simple and complex sounds, and location. Further topics may include touch, including perception of temperature, pain and body posture, the chemical senses, and cross-modal influences of the senses on one another. In-class demonstrations may supplement the lectures.
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PSY280H1 Syllabus for Michael Mack — Winter 2019

PSY 280H1 Winter 2019 – Sensation and Perception
Wednesdays, 9am12pm, Sidney Smith Hall, room 2117
Contact Information
Dr. Michael Mack
Office hours: Tuesdays, 1-2pm
Office: Sidney Smith Hall, room 4041
Teaching Assistants
Claudia Damiano, Aedan Li, Phillip Johnston
Office hours: TBA
Course Description, Goals, Prerequisites
The purpose of this course is to examine how we perceive our environment through our senses.
As we will find out in this class, there are two parallel realities, the physical reality around us, and
the psychological reality inside of our brain. In many cases, these two realities can be quite
distinct. We will focus on how our senses of vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste interact with
the physical world to create our perception of reality.
Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:
describe the sensory systems
distinguish between sensation and perception
explain how sensory and perceptual processes shape our experience of reality
explain the basic principles of classical psychophysics
explain how human sensory systems respond to energy in the physical environment and
transform it into a perceptual experience that the brain can understand
compare and contrast the five sensory systems in terms of their sensory/anatomical
properties and perceptual organization
explain the roles of prior knowledge and inference in our perceptual judgments and our
conscious experiences
identify and define the leading terms, concepts, theoretical perspectives, empirical findings,
and historical trends in the study of sensation and perception
compare and contrast psychological principles, theories, and methods as they pertain to
sensory and neurological systems
critically read, understand, and evaluate scientific literature, understand and use scientific
and technical vocabulary, and synthesize information from multiple sources
PSY100H1/COG250Y1 (formerly UNI250Y) or registered in the Cognitive Science program
Note about prerequisites: It is your responsibility to ensure that you have met all prerequisites
listed in the Psychology section of the A&S Calendar for this course. If you lack any prerequisites
you WILL BE REMOVED. No waivers will be granted.
Reading Material
Sensation & Perception, 5th Edition, 2018
by Jeremy M. Wolfe, Keith R. Kluender, and Dennis M. Levi
ISBN: 9781605356419
We will frequently refer to the accompanying online material:
Lecture slides
Lecture slides will be posted on Quercus and available the evening before each lecture.
Course Evaluation
The class will be evaluated using the following assignments (total: 1000 points):
i) Review quizzes (100 points). Review quizzes will be posted on Quercus following each class.
Quizzes will consist of a mix of multiple choice, short answer, and long answer questions.
There will be 11 review quizzes over the course of the semester, each worth 10 points. The
lowest of the 11 grades will be dropped, resulting in a total of 100 points for the review quizzes.
Review quizzes will frequently relate to instructions or materials that are only available in
class. Review quizzes are due 36 hours after the end of class (11:59pm on the Thursday
following each lecture).
ii) Writing assignments (200 points). Details of the two writing assignments (each worth 100
points) will be announced in class and on Quercus. The writing assignments will each consist
of three main components: a complete paper draft, peer reviews, and a final paper. All
materials must be submitted online to Quercus in by the due dates. Late submissions will be
accepted, but 10 points will be subtracted for each day or fraction of a day that the assignment
is late. Note: 1) paper drafts must be turned in by the deadline to participate in peer
review; and 2) both the paper draft and peer reviews must be completed in order to
receive a mark for the final paper. The deadlines for each component are listed below:
Writing assignment 1
Jan 29 (11:59pm)
Feb 5 (11:59pm)
Peer review
Feb 12 (11:59pm)
Mar 5 (11:59pm)
Writing assignment 2
Mar 19 (11:59pm)
Peer review
Mar 26 (11:59pm)
Apr 2 (11:59pm)
iii) Midterm test (300 points). In-class midterm test covering the material from the first half of the
course will be written at the regular class meeting time on February 27th.
iv) Final exam (400 points). A final exam covering the material from the entire class will be written
during Final Examination Period (between April 6th and 30th).
v) PSYNUP-Brain experiment participation (10 bonus points). Students can receive 10 bonus
points for 1 hour of experimental participation. See Quercus for more information. Visit to sign up for an experiment.
Grading Policy
I strictly follow the official U of T grading scheme:
I do not round grades. That is, you actually have to achieve 80% to get an A-, for instance. 79.9%
is not enough. There has to be a cut-off somewhere, and the U of T grading scheme provides
specific cut-offs for letter grades.
Online Resources and Discussion Boards
The website associated with this course is accessible on Quercus:
Quercus discussion boards will be available for each lecture, the midterm, and final exam. Please
use these discussion boards to ask questions related to course content. This will be the easiest
and fastest way to receive a response from Dr. Mack or the TAs (see email policy below). Also, it
is highly likely that other students have similar questions; posting to Quercus will help everyone.
Online material accompanying the textbook is available at:
Course Policies
Missed Tests
If you need to miss the midterm exam due to illness, then please make sure to submit the
Verification of Student Illness or Injury form (search for “verification illness” on the psychology
website) to the TAs or the instructor within one week of the test. Medical documentation must
show that the physician was consulted within one day of the missed test. A make-up test will be
given to students who missed the midterm. Students who miss final examinations should file a
petition for a deferred exam with their College Registrar’s Office.
Penalties for Lateness
Review quizzes may not be submitted past the 36-hour deadline. One missed review quiz can be
dropped as the lowest of the 11 review quiz scores. Late submission of the writing assignment
drafts will be marked as 0 points and exclude participation in peer review. Late submission of
writing assignment peer reviews and papers will be penalized with 10 points deduction per day or
fraction of a day.
Religious accommodation
As a student at the University of Toronto, you are part of a diverse community that welcomes and
includes students and faculty from a wide range of backgrounds, cultural traditions, and spiritual
beliefs. For my part, I will make every reasonable effort to avoid scheduling tests, examinations,
or other compulsory activities on religious holy days not captured by statutory holidays. Further
to University Policy, if you anticipate being absent from class or missing a major course activity
(like a test, or in-class assignment) due to a religious observance, please let me know as early in
the course as possible, and with sufficient notice (at least two to three weeks), so that we can
work together to make alternate arrangements.
Specific Medical Circumstances
If you become ill and it affects your ability to do your academic work, consult me right away.
Normally, I will ask you for medical documentation in support of your specific medical
circumstances. The University’s Verification of Student Illness or Injury (VOI) form is
recommended because it indicates the impact and severity of the illness, while protecting your
privacy about the details of the nature of the illness. You can submit a different form (like a letter
from the doctor), as long as it is an original document, and it contains the same information as
the VOI. For more information, please see If you get a
concussion, break your hand, or suffer some other acute injury, you should register with
Accessibility Services as soon as possible.
Accommodation for Personal Reasons
There may be times when you are unable to complete course work on time due to non-medical
reasons. If you have concerns, speak to me. It is also a very good idea to speak with an advisor
in your College Registrars office; they can support you in requesting extensions or
accommodations, and importantly, connect you with other resources on campus for help with your
Cell phones and laptop usage
Technology can support student learning, but it can also become a distraction. Research indicates
that multi-tasking (texting, surfing the Internet, using social networks) during class time can have
a negative impact on learning (Clapp, Rubens, Sabharwal & Gazzaley, 2011; Ellis, Daniels,
Jauregui, 2010; Hembrooke & Gay, 2003). Out of respect for your fellow learners in this class,
please refrain from using laptops or mobile phones for entertainment during class and do not
display any material on a laptop which may be distracting or offensive to your fellow students.
Laptops may be used only for legitimate classroom purposes, such as taking notes, downloading
course information from Portal, or working on an assigned in-class exercise. Checking social
media, email, texting, games, and surfing the Web are not legitimate classroom purposes. Such
inappropriate laptop and mobile phone use is distracting to those seated around you and is
Email Policy
Please check the syllabus, the class materials posted on Quercus, and the Quercus discussion
boards before sending an email. You will find answers to most of your questions there. I am
available to answer questions about lecture material during the lecture break, right after class,
and during office hours. If you cannot make it to office hours, you may send me an email to request
an appointment.
You may send email about the following issues to the TAs: problems with the online quizzes or
any other malfunction of Quercus or notifications of illness for test days. Clarifications of
assignments or test materials should be asked in the relevant Quercus discussion board.
Please do not send email to tell us that you have to miss class, that you’ve missed an online quiz,
to inquire about your grade (it’s on Quercus), to ask questions about class material (come to class
or office hours), or any question answered in the syllabus or on Quercus. You may send a polite
follow-up email if you haven’t received a response within 48 hours.
Finally, please consider email as professional correspondence. Send email only to the two email
addresses listed in the syllabus. Use a meaningful subject line and start it with “PSY280”. Use a
proper greeting and sign with your name. State your concern clearly and succinctly. Proof read
your email for spelling and grammar. Remember, emails last forever and cannot be unsent.
Normally, students will be required to submit their course essays to for review of
textual similarity and detection of possible plagiarism. In doing so, students will allow their essays
to be included as source documents in the reference database, where they will be
used solely for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. The terms that apply to the University’s use
of the service are described on the web site.
Academic Resources
Ongoing Learning Disability or Accommodation Requirement
Students with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. If you have an
ongoing disability issue or accommodation need, you should register with Accessibility Services
(AS) ( at the beginning of the academic year. Without registration,
you will not be able to verify your situation with your instructors, and instructors will not be advised
about your accommodation needs. AS will then assess your medical situation, develop an
accommodation plan with you, and support you in requesting accommodation for your course
work. Remember that the process of accommodation is private: AS will not share details of your
condition with any instructor, and your instructors will not reveal that you are registered with AS.
As a student here at the University of Toronto, you are expected to write well. The university
provides its students with a number of resources to help them achieve this. For more information
on campus writing centres and writing courses, please visit
If English is not your first language, you may want to consider the English Language Learning
program of the Faculty of Arts and Science:
Academic Integrity and Plagiarism
All students, faculty and staff are expected to follow the University’s guidelines and policies on
academic integrity. For students, this means following the standards of academic honesty when
writing assignments, collaborating with fellow students, and writing tests and exams. Ensure that
the work you submit for grading represents your own honest efforts. Plagiarismrepresenting
someone else’s work as your own or submitting work that you have previously submitted for marks
in another class or programis a serious offence that can result in sanctions. Speak to me or
your TA for advice on anything that you find unclear. To learn more about how to cite and use
source material appropriately and for other writing support, see the U of T writing support website
at Consult the Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters for a
complete outline of the University’s policy and expectations. For more information, please see and
Other Resources
Student Life Programs and Services (
Academic Success Services (
Counselling and Psychological Services (
Provisional Course Schedule
Jan 9
Introduction & First Steps in Vision
Ch. 1 & 2
Jan 16
Retinal Information Processing & Spatial Vision
Ch. 2 & 3
Jan 23
Object Recognition
Ch. 4
Jan 30
Colour Perception
Ch. 5
Feb 6
Perception of 3D Space
Ch. 6
Feb 13
Attention and Scene Perception
Ch. 7
Feb 20
Reading Week no class
Feb 27
Midterm Exam
Ch. 1-7
Mar 6
Motion Perception
Ch. 8
Mar 13
Ch. 9
Mar 20
Hearing & Vestibular System
Ch. 10 & 12
Mar 27
Touch & Olfaction
Ch. 13 & 14
Apr 3
Taste & Final review
Ch. 15
Final Exam
All material

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