Thursday, July 14, 2011

Final Project Post

Perception is a very interesting class. This must be the case: perceiving the world around us is something that is done by everyone all the time. The colors we see, things we feel, music we hear, and food we taste and smell are all essentially the results of chemical input into certain brain areas. I think that it is fascinating that people generally think that "they" are in control of everything that happens in their lives; studying perception shows, very clearly too, that this is not the case.

For example, take the spinning room experiment done by Lee and Aronson in 1974. This showed that both toddlers and adults alike will lose their balance and sway or even fall if they are in a room in which the walls physically move back and forth. This demonstrates the notion that senses do not work in isolation; each sense provides information to the others. This is also clearly seen when tasting food. If a good tasting food (or a good smelling odor) is labelled as a foul tasting food (or odor) the person who reads the label is more likely to give the food or smell bad remarks. Likewise, labeling a bad odor as a good odor will make it smell "better". I also found this interesting, because scent is the strongest sense attached to memory, yet it seems to be the most variable, the one most likely to be interpreted by other stimuli or sensory information.

My favorite part of the course was learning about how we see and hear.  There are so many beautiful colors and sounds in the world, but humans can only perceive a fraction of them! The eye, which, as I said earlier, we like to believe never fails us (why do people like to say "I'd have to see it to believe it?") is actually fooled quite easily. Black squares laid out across a white background - a Hermann grid - fools the eye into seeing gray in between the black squares. Eyes adapt to changes in light and dark,  and during this time, colors we thought we a certain shade at one time will change shades as our eyes adapt to our surroundings. I found this clip on a while ago, and I thought it was very enjoyable and shows just exactly how easily our eyes can get fooled.

I discussed hearing in an earlier post, but as a recap, I think that the concept of auditory stream segregation is very cool. It is a way to play a melody with alternating high and low to notes to fool the listeners into believing they are hearing two separate melodies.

I think that if people learn more about how their brains' interpret the world around them, which likely is not the way they see things, people will stop and take time to really appreciate what they are perceiving. For example, when sitting in front of a classical painting, one should take the time to realize all the nuances both regarding the painting and the way the eyes perceive the painting. Just as our senses interact with one another, we too should appreciate the greater extension of this notion, that everything that happens has an affect on something else.

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