PSY 3300: Perception  

Mechanisms and models of perceptual systems

Fall 2018   Jump to course schedule!

Note: This syllabus is a work in progress!

Course Information

Course Description

This course is an introduction to perception, the study of how humans and animals gather, process, and organize sensory information from the environment, primarily focusing on auditory and visual perception. We will examine these topics from multiple perspectives, including the behavioral, computational, and neural mechanisms underlying perceptual systems. A major goal of this course is to expose students to different models, theoretical approaches, and debates in the field. To that end, we will read several original research articles on these topics and discuss them in class, in addition to other readings for the course.


By taking this course, you will gain:

  1. Knowledge of the mechansism invovled in sensation and perception
  2. Exposure to current debates, models, and theories about how humans and animals perceive the world
  3. Practice reading and discussing original research articles on these topics

Course Materials

Required textbook: Wolfe JM, Kluender KR, Levi DM, et al. (2015). Sensation & Perception. Sinauer: Sunderland, MA. ISBN 978-1-60535-211-4.

Previous editions of this textbook are also acceptable. These can often be found online at a significantly reduced price! Additional readings will be posted on the course website (i.e., this website). See the schedule below for a list of readings.

Course Requirements

Point Breakdown

Component Points % of Final Grade
Exam 1 80 pts 20%
Exam 2 80 pts 20%
Final Exam 160 pts 40%
Homework 1 20 pts 5%
Homework 2 20 pts 5%
Homework 3 20 pts 5%
Participation/Experts 20 pts 5%


There will be a total of three exams during the semester, including a cumulative final exam. Each midterm is worth 20% of your grade, and the final is worth 40%. The goal of the exams is to evaluate your ability to understand the basic concepts covered in the course and apply the principles of sensation and perception you have learned. As such, the exam questions will focus more on broad concepts than on specific facts. Questions will be drawn primarily from the material presented in lecture and discussion, as well as from material presented in the textbook and original research articles.

Exams will not be administered prior to the scheduled date. Do not miss an exam unless it is absolutely necessary. You may request to take a make-up exam if you have an authorized university absence. The University's official Attendance Policy lists the following excused absences: "approved athletic participation or participation in approved academic events; official university business; approved field trips; certified serious illness; death in the immediate family; or approved placement activities". Please speak to me in person if you have an authorized absence that requires you to make-up a scheduled exam.

For each exam, you may have one sheet of handwritten notes (one side of one piece of paper). You can put anything you'd like on your note sheet, but each student must write their own. I will collect these with the exams and return them with the graded exams. Please use the note sheet as a study tool to help you organize you thoughts. Students often tell me that it ends up being more helpful when studying than during the actual exam!


There will be three short homework assignments during the semeseter designed to allow you to test your knowledge of perception. Each homework assignment is worth 5% of your class grade (15% total). Details for the assignments will be given in the schedule.

Discussion Experts and Participation

We will read several original research articles and discuss them together in class. It is important that you do the readings before each class and participate in the class discussion. In addition, each student will be a member of an "Experts" group who will lead the discussion of a research article about the day's topic. The members of the group should come to class prepared to lead a discussion on the findings from the article.

Group members do not need to meet before class, nor do they need to necessarily consult with each other about the article we are discussing (but you are welcome to do this if you want!). Instead, each student should be prepared to lead the discussion of the article, understanding the hypotheses put forth, the approach used, and the results, as well as how the data fit with one or more broader theories of perception. Each member of the group should contribute to presenting their thoughts and guiding the discussion in class. Everyone else is encouraged to participate in the discussion as well. If you have questions about the articles, please let me know before class so we can meet and clear up anything you're not sure about (this is particularly important if you are one of our Experts for that topic).

Grading Scale

Grades will be based on the percentage of points earned on exams and homework assignments; grades will not be determined on the basis of a curve.

A-...90.00-93.32% A...>93.32%
B-...80.00-83.32% B...83.33-86.66% B+...86.67-89.99%
C-...70.00-73.32% C...73.33-76.66% C+...76.67-79.99%
D-...60.00-63.32% D...63.33-66.66% D+...66.67-69.99%

Course Policies

Standard Villanova Course Policies

Course-specific Policies

Course Schedule

Note: Schedule not yet finalized!

Date Topic Readings Deadlines/Notes
8/27 Introduction
8/29 Psychophysics Wolfe, Ch. 1
9/3 No class (Labor Day)
9/5 Psychophysics (continued) Article discussion Experts 1
9/10 Audition Wolfe, Ch. 9
9/12 Audition (continued) Wolfe, Ch. 10 Homework 1 due
9/17 Speech Perception Wofle, Ch. 11
9/19 Speech Perception (continued) Article discussion Experts 2
9/24 Music Perception
9/26 Sound Localization
10/1 Catch-up/Exam Review
10/3 EXAM 1
10/8 Low-level Vision Wolfe, Ch. 2
10/10 Low-level Vision (continued) Wolfe, Ch. 3
10/15 No class (Fall break)
10/17 No class (Fall break)
10/22 Mid- and High-level Vision Wolfe, Ch. 4
10/24 Mid- and High-level Vision (continued) Article discussion Experts 3
10/29 Color Perception Wolfe, Ch. 5
10/31 Depth Perception Wolfe, Ch. 6 Homework 2 due
11/5 Visual attention Wolfe, Ch. 7
11/7 Top-down Effects
11/12 Top-down Effects (continued) Article discussion Experts 4
11/14 Catch-up/Exam Review
11/19 EXAM 2
11/21 No class (Thanksgiving break)
11/26 Vestibular System Wolfe, Ch. 12
11/28 Tactile Perception Wolfe, Ch. 13 Homework 3 due
12/3 Olfaction and Gustation Wolfe, Ch. 14, Ch. 15
12/5 Cross-modal Perception
12/10 Cross-modal Perception (continued) Article discussion Experts 5
12/12 Catch-up/Final Exam Review
TBD FINAL EXAM (cumulative)