PSYC 100 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Detection Theory, Optic Nerve, Absolute Threshold
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Amos Vivancos Leon 1
Chapter 5 sensation
Sensation: to detect physical energy from the environment and encode it as neural signals. The process by which
our sensory receptors and nervous system receive and represent stimulus energies from our environment.
Perception: to select, organize, and interpret our sensations. The process of organizing and interpreting sensory
information, enabling us to recognize meaningful objects and events.
Bottom – up processing: analysis that begins with the senses and works up to the brain for processing. Start at the
entry level through sensations.
Top-down processing: analysis that requires higher level mental process, constructing perceptions drawing both on
sensations coming bottom-up to the brain and on our experience and expectations
Psychophysics: the study of relationships between the physical characteristics of stimuli, such as their intensity,
and our psychological experience of them.
➢Absolute thresholds: the minimum stimulation needed to detect a particular stimulus 50 percent of the time.
➢Signal Detection: detecting a weak stimulus or signal depends not only on the signal strength, but also on our
psychological state. (experiences, expectations, motivations, alertness)
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 signal absolute threshold and that detection depends
partly on a person’s experience, expectations, motivation, and level of fatigue.
➢Subliminal stimulation: Stimulation bellows one’s absolute threshold for conscious awareness.
Prime: the activation, often unconscious, of certain associations, thus predisposing one’s perceptions, memory, or
➢Different thresholds: the minimum difference between two stimuli required for detection 50 percent of the time. We
experience the difference threshold as a just noticeable difference. (AKA noticeable difference or JND)
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). E.g. For the average person to perceive their difference, two lights must
differ in intensity by 8%, two objects in weight by 2% and two tones must differ in frequency by 0.3 %.
A. Sensory adaptation: our diminishing sensitivity to an unchanging stimulus. Our sensory receptors are alert to novelty.
Transduction: conversion of one form of energy into another. In sensation (sensory transduction), the transforming
of stimulus energies, such as sight, sounds, and smells, into neural impulses our brains can interpret. E.g. we
convert light energy into neural impulses.
A. The stimulus input: light energy. -scientifically speaking, what strikes our eyes is not colour, but pulses of
electromagnetic energy What we see as visible light is but a thin slice of what the whole spectrum of electromagnetic
➢Two physical characteristics of light help determine our sensory experience are:
1. Wavelengths: the distance from one wave peak to the next which determines its hue (the colour we experience
such as blue or green
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Amos Vivancos Leon 2
Hue: the dimension of colour that is determined by the wavelength of light; what we know as the colours.
1. Intensity: the amount of energy in light waves (determined by wave’s amplitude, or height) which influences
A. The Eye:
Cornea: The areas were light enters, protects the eye and bends light to provide focus.
Pupil: after the cornea light passes through the pupil, a small adjustable opening in the center of the eye through
which light enters.
Iris: a ring of muscle tissue that forms the coloured portion of the eye around the pupil and controls the size of the
Lens: the transparent structure behind the pupil that changes shape to help focus images on the retina.
○Accommodation: the process by which the eye’s lens changes shape to focus near or far objects on the retina.
Retina: the light-sensitive inner surface of the eye, containing the receptor rods and cones plus layers of neurons
that begin the processing of visual information.
Acuity: the sharpness of vision
a) Normal Vision b) Nearsighted Vision c) farsighted vision
Rays of light converge on the retina.
This occurs for both nearby objects
and, with appropriate readjustments in
the curvature of the lens, for objects
The light rays from distant objects are
focused in from of the retina, when
their images reach the retina; the rays
are spreading out, blurring the image.
The light rays from nearby objects
come into focus behind the retina,
resulting in blurred images
➢The retina: the light-sensitive inner surface of the eye, containing the receptor rods and cones plus layers of neurons
that begin the processing of visual information
Rods: retina receptors that detect black, white, and grey; necessary for peripheral and twilight vision when cones
don’t respond. To faint light.
Cones: retinal receptor cells that are concentrated near the center of the retina and that function in daylight or in
well-lit conditions. The cones detect fine detail and give rise to colour sensation.
Light striking the rods and cones produces chemical changes that generate neural signals. These signals activate the
neighbouring bipolar cells (help relay the cones individual messages to the visual cortex), which in turn activate the
neighbouring ganglion cells. The axons from the network of ganglion cells converge like the strands of a rope to form an
Optic nerve: the nerve that carries neural impulses from the eye to the brain.
Blind spot: the point at which the optic nerve leaves the eye, creating a “blind” spot because no receptor cells are
Fovea: the retinas area of central focus. Cones cluster around the fovea-only contains cones.
A. Visual Information Processing:
➢Feature detection: nerve cells in the brain that respond to specific features of the stimulus, such as shape, angle, or
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