PSY 8200: Perception (Graduate)

Mechanisms and models of perceptual systems

Fall 2018

Course Information

Course Description

This is a seminar-style course on 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, readings will consist primarily of original research articles, and students will lead class presentations discussing the papers.

There is also an undergraduate version of this course. You may find some of the readings or lecture slides from that class useful.


By taking this course, you will gain:

  1. Knowledge of the mechanisms involved 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

All readings will be posted on the course website (i.e., this website). See the schedule below for a list of readings.

There is no textbook required for this course. However, if you would like a good text on perception that will provide you with additional background information, I recommend the following books (both are well-suited for graduate students):

  1. Wolfe JM, Kluender KR, & Levi DM. Sensation & Perception. Sinauer: Sunderland, MA.
  2. Palmer SE. Vision Science. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA. (specific to vision)

I have copies of these and several other perception books in my office. You are welcome to borrow them if you would like (first come, first serve).

Course Requirements

Class discussions (40%)

Each week, we will read one or more research articles on a topic in perception (see schedule below). One or two students will summarize the article and lead a discussion of it. Everyone else will submit discussion questions before class that week. In addition, the students leading the discussion are expected to present findings from other relevant work on the same topic. Some suggested readings for each topic, along with the main article for each week, will be included in the schedule. You do not have to discuss these additional studies specifically. In addition, you should not assume that everyone in the class has read all the associated readings on a particular topic. However, I encourage everyone to read the articles listed, as they will provide you with a deeper background on each area of research. 20% of the class grade is based on submitting questions and participating in the class discussion, and 20% is based on leading the class discussion when it's your turn.

Take-home midterm (20%)

For the midterm, you will complete a project that will allow you to demonstrate your knowledge of perception. You have two options to choose from for this project: (1) conducting a simulation of a perceptual phenomenon using a computational model, and (2) analyzing a set of data from a perceptual experiment. In both cases, the tools you need will be provided (i.e., the code for the model, or a dataset to be analyzed). Your job is to produce a write-up describing the results of the simulation (project 1) or experiment (project 2). In addition, you should include a discussion of how you could use this technique to address another question in perception (i.e., a question about a different perceptual phenomenon). Write-ups are limited to three pages, single-spaced, minimum 0.5-inch margins, 11-12 point font. Anything beyond the 3-page limit will not be graded! The write-up is due the class before Fall Break.

Literature review and experiment proposal (40%)

The final paper will consist of a literature review on a topic in perception, along with a proposal for a novel experiment that follows from the lit review. The goal of this paper is to give you an opportunity to focus on a particular area of perception and provide you with experience writing experiment proposals and grants. You may submit drafts to me (as often as you would like), and I will provide feedback. The paper will follow a format similar to an NIH Predoctoral Fellowship proposal. The final proposal is due the class beore Thanksgiving break and is worth 40% of the class grade (20% for the literature review and 20% for the experiment proposal). I suggest having a draft of the literature review done by Fall Break. This will provide enough time for me to give feedback to you on the paper before you submit the final version. If you would like comments on drafts later in the semester, please allow at least one week for me to provide feedback. The paper is limited to 6 pages, following the same format as the midterm write-up.

Grading Scale

Grades will be based on the percentage of points earned on assignments and class participation; 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

Date Topic Readings Additional readings* Deadlines/Presenters
8/28 Introduction Marr (1982)
9/4 Visual attention Folk et al. (1992)
Most & Astur (2007)
Theeuwes (1992) Eva, Anne
9/11 Scene perception/Object recognition Hollingworth & Henderson (2002); Logothetis et al. (1994) Henderson & Hollingworth (1999); Riesenhuber & Poggio (1999) Tomas, Anna
9/18 Ambiguity/Illusions Long & Toppino (2004); Jensen & Mathewson (2011) and replication: Matthewson (2018) Mitroff et al. (2006); Ouhnana & Kingdom (2016); Scocchia et al. (2014) Jesica, Eva
9/25 Face/Person perception Gauthier et al. (1999); Krosch & Amodio (2014) Michel et al. (2006); Ratner & Amodio (2013) Sarah, Anna
10/2 Depth perception Jacobs (2002); Ernst & Banks (2002) Held et al. (2012); Knill (2005) Bridget, Andrea
10/9 The Big Picture Pylyshyn (1999) + commentaries Midterm project due (Instructions, Additional files)
Suggested deadline for lit review draft
10/16 No class (Fall break)
10/23 Guest presentation (Laura Getz)
10/30 Motion/Perception through video Purves et al. (1996); Schuster et al. (2006) Herzog et al. (2016); Koenderink (1986) Tomas, Bridget
11/6 Color vision/blindness Roorda & Williams (1999); Kraft & Brainard (1999) Liu et al. (2015); Marcos et al. (2017); Brainard & Freeman (1997) Jesica, Julia
11/13 Word recognition/meaning Allopenna et al. (1998); Smith (1984) Tanenhaus et al. (1995) Julia
11/20 Speech perception/Indexical effects Strand (1996); Pisoni (1993) Hay & Drager (2007); Gertsman (1968); Syrdal & Gopel (1986) Agnes, Sarah; Final paper due
11/27 Speech perception/Phoneme identification Schouten et al. (2003) Toscano et al. (2010); Liberman et al. (1957) Agnes
12/4 Vestibular/Oculovestibular Young et al. (1984); Crowell et al. (1998) Harm et al. (1999); Stackman & Herbert (2002) Andrea, Anne
12/11 The Big Picture Kleinschmidt & Jaeger (2015); Bowers & Davis (2012)
* For experts or anyone else who wants to read them.

Last updated by J. Toscano, 06-Sep-2018