Sensation & Perception

Spring - 2017

PSYC 3250-A
T-Th   2:00 - 3:15
Hale 302

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  Instructor: Stephen T. Paul, Ph.D.                          Office: 471 Nicholson
E-mail: Office Hours: M/W: 1:00 - 3:30 pm
Phone:    (412) 397-5416. and appointment.

All our interior world is reality - and that perhaps more so than our apparent world.
-- Marc Chagall

Text: Wolfe, et al. (2015). Sensation & Perception, 4th ed. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates, inc.
Students are expected to have their textbooks and other required course materials (lab books, digital media, etc.) at the start of the course. Failure to have required course materials will not be accepted as justification for failure to be prepared for class, missed or incomplete assignments, failure to prepare for exams, quizzes and other course evaluations or inability to complete other course requirements. The only exception to this policy will be situations in which the textbooks and/or other course materials are not available from the publisher as determined by availability in the RMU Bookstore.
Web Site:
Text Site:
Overview: Sensation has been defined as the physical sensing of a stimulus (to me, this refers to the physiological response to some stimulus before you know what it actually is) or, the initial detection of energy from the physical world. Perception refers to the label/interpretation you put on a sensation. This course will sample a few of the focal areas in sensation and perception, and will emphasize some classic studies as well as a few recent studies that I think are particularly interesting. It is my hope that you come away from this class with, at least, a respectable grasp of the issues, and (dare I hope) a healthy interest in one or more areas of human sensation and perception.
  1. To better understand how we acquire information from the environment through our senses as well as how we make sense of that information.
  2. To understand the research methods used to measure and describe sensory and perceptual processes.
  3. To be able to differentiate sensation from perception.
  4. To be able to describe the basic physiological structures of the ear and eye as well as how this contributes to our auditory and visual sensory experiences.
  5. To understand why seeing color is considered a psychological experience.
  6. To know two theories that explain color perception.
  7. To know two theories that explain auditory perception.
  8. To be able to identify the role of psychological factors in the experience of pain.
  9. To understand the perceptual phenomena of motion after-effects, perceptual constancy, binocular and monocular depth perception, pattern recognition, and perceptual grouping.
Exams: Four exams will be administered (3 semester exams; 1 cumulative final). In addition, for each chapter we cover there are online-quizzes for you to take.
  1. Accomodation: Students who may be eligible to receive learning support or physical accommodations must contact the Center for Student Success at 412-397-4342 to schedule an appointment with a counselor and to learn more about accommodation procedures. To receive accommodations in this course, arrangements must be made through the Center for Student Success.
  2. Lectures & Readings: I expect that you will have read each chapter before we meet in class to discuss it. When you read, take note of portions that you don't understand well, or that you might have questions about. In this way you will arrive prepared for class to discuss the material like a true scholar.
  3. Attendance: Students should not be expected to attend any more lectures than the professor shows up to teach. If you miss a class that I showed up to teach, your absence will likely be noted. You should also be aware that if you arrive to class AFTER attendance has been taken, or, if you leave BEFORE attendance has been taken, YOU WILL BE MARKED AS ABSENT FOR THAT DAY.
  4. Academic Integrity: Academic Integrity is valued at Robert Morris University. All students are expected to understand and adhere to the standards of Academic Integrity as stated in the RMU Academic Integrity Policy which can be found on the RMU website at Any student who violates the Academic Integrity Policy is subject to possible judicial proceedings which may result in sanctions as outlined in the Policy. Also note that all academic integrity violations will be reviewed by the SESS Academic Integrity Committee. Depending upon the severity of the violation, sanctions may range from receiving a zero on an assignment to permanent removal from the psychology degree program or even dismissal from the university. If you have any questions about the policy, please consult your course instructor.
  5. Title IX: One of my responsibilities as an instructor at RMU is to help create a safe learning environment in the classroom and on campus. Please note that I am required to report any information regarding sexual misconduct (including but not limited to: sexual assault, harassment, domestic violence, dating violence, stalking). This is particularly important to me because sexual violence can undermine studentsí academic success. I want your performance in my class to reflect your ability, not your circumstances. If desired, students may speak to someone confidentially by contacting the RMU Counseling Center (412-397-5900 or They are located in Patrick Henry (lower level) and their office is open M-F from 8:30 am - 5:00 pm. If you prefer, you may also directly contact the RMU Title IX Coordinator, Dr. Yasmin Purohit, at (412) 397-5472 or email (see also Reports to law enforcement can be made to the Robert Morris University Police Department at 412-397-2424. Students also have the option to contact the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, ( at 215-656-8541.
  6. Grading: The exams will constitute 70 percent of your final grade (x1=10 percent, x2=15 percent, x3=20 percent and 25 percent for the final exam), and the online-quizzes will contribute 15 percent. We will be doing occasional in-class activities and perhaps some take-home assignments; both of which require your participation. Your efforts on these activities can earn you up to 15 percent toward your final grade. The breakdown below will be used to determine final grades (based on overall percentage earned by semester's end):

      A = 93.0 - 100B = 83.0 - 86.9C = 70.0 - 74.9
      A- = 90.0 - 92.9B- = 80.0 - 82.9D = 60.0 - 69.9
      B+ = 87.0 - 89.9C+ = 75.0 - 79.9F = 0 - 59.9

    PLEASE NOTE: Students will NOT be allowed to wear baseball (etc.) caps during exams. I must be able to see your eyes while you take the exams!

  7. Use of Personal Technologies During Classtime: The use of laptops (of any sort), cell phones (of any sort), MP3 players (of any sort), or any other technology that serves to distract you (and/or your neighbors) from course content and delivery are prohibited. If you are caught using ANY of the above technologies during class time, you will be marked absent for that class. Should your electronic addiction become excessive (distracting to other students), you may be asked to leave.

  8. Missed Assignments: In the event that you miss a graded assignment (exam, activity, etc.) you have one week from the date of the missed assignment to make arrangements with me to complete that missed assignment (or, if the original assignment cannot be completed, a replacement assignment). If you fail to make arrangements with me to make up missed assignments by the one week deadline, you will receive a zero for that assignment.

Schedule of Events: This is provided as a general outline and ordering of what we will be covering throughout the semester. I've indicated approximate dates (weeks) for the exams but the exact test-date will be announced in class (usually) one week prior to each exam (the final-exam date, of course, is already known).

  Week of: Lecture Topics Activities Readings Practice Quizzes GRADED Quizzes
1 January 9 First Steps in Vision Saccadic Eye Movements Chapter 2 Ch-2 7 Quizzes
2 January 16 Spatial Vision Visual Distortions Chapter 3 Ch-3 5 Quizzes
3 January 23 Exam 1
4 January 30 Perceiving and Recognizing Objects CTI Chapter 4 Ch-4 7 Quizzes
5 February 6 Perception of Color Visual Illusions Chapter 5 Ch-5 5 Quizzes
6 February 13
7 February 20 Space Perception & Binocular Vision 3D Images
Ames Room
Chapter 6 Ch-6 4 Quizzes
8 February 27 Exam 2
March 6-10 Spring Break (no classes)
9 March 13 Hearing: Physiology & Psychoacoustics
What Do Cochlear Implants Sound Like?
Acoustic Simulations of Cochlear Implants
Tympanic Membrane Chapter 9 Ch-9 3 Quizzes
10 March 20 Hearing in the Environment Auditory Illusions Chapter 10 Ch-10 5 Quizzes
11 March 27 Exam 3
12 April 3 Touch Haptics Chapter 13 Ch-13 6 Quizzes
13 April 10 Olfaction (smell) Smell-O-Rama Chapter 14 Ch-14 3 Quizzes
14 April 17 Taste Taste-O-Rama Chapter 15 Ch-15 2 Quizzes
Final Exam Wednesday - April 26, 2017 (beginning at 3:45 pm).