What, When, & Where
Welcome! This course will provide you with an introduction to the study of perception, with a heavy emphasis on visual perception. In short, we will explore how we see. It turns out that there's more to this than you might think. Many people tend to think that there can't be too much going on in visual perception, simply because it's so quick and effortless. ("Can't it work just like a camera?") In reality, there's a tremendous amount of complicated (and interesting!) processing going on in your minds when you open your eyes and see. Our minds not only make perception possible, but make it seem like no big deal. Because of this, you will learn some surprising (even shocking) things in this course about how your mind works -- and also learn that some of the basic assumptions you've always had about how you see are completely misguided.
Expected Work & Grading
Preliminary Course Outline
Here's a preliminary outline of the material we'll cover in this course. The readings are included in the following order in your reading packet, and the full references are listed at the very end of the syllabus. Some of these readings will be optional; these will be noted as the semester progresses. Note that we'll begin with an introduction and overview of some major themes in visual perception, and then move on through three main units: low-level visual processing, visual attention, and higher-level visual processing. The exact timing of these lectures is very subject to change: we may end up spending more time than is listed here on topics which strike you as especially interesting or difficult, and/or less time on topics which we don't have time to cover. (Thus, if you prefer or require a precise and unchangeable course schedule, this class is probably not for you.) Overall, I encourage you to interact with me regarding this material: If there are any topics you would like to add, or to cover in more depth, let me know!
Final Paper Topics
For the final paper in this course (worth 40% of your final grade), you'll design an experiment to test an idea you've had about some aspect of how perception works. The topic you choose can come from any area of perception, but will probably arise from questions and comments that are raised during the class discussions and during your reading. Excellent paper topics can often arise from very general questions you might have -- e.g. "I wonder whether this type of visual processing can occur without attention . . ." or "I wonder if this other factor can also affect the perception of grouping/amodal completion/causality/biological motion/etc. . ." However, the final question you address in your paper should be as concrete and focused as possible. You should start thinking of possible paper topics as early as possible: I would suggest keeping a 'brainstorming journal' of possible ideas, and forcing yourself to come up with at least an idea or two (however preliminary or half-baked) for each topic we cover in the course. You should also feel free to bounce possible ideas off each other (both in and outside of class), but you shouldn't (knowingly) write a paper to investigate the same question being explored by a classmate.
Full References for Readings
Adelson, E. H. (2000). Lightness perception and lightness illusions. In M. Gazzaniga (Ed.), The new cognitive neurosciences, 2nd Ed. (pp. 339 - 351). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.