Cog Blog

As part of Dr. Bauernschmidt's Cognition course we will be publishing blog posts written by students throughout the semester. In this first installment, students are writing about what they learned in the first unit of the course covering perception, attention, and consciousness. Check out the first two by Michael Conley and Michelle Beckett-Ansa

Student Cog Blog: Literally all you need to know about Visual Perception for your Intro Cognition class by Michelle Beckett-Ansa

Literally all you need to know about Visual Perception for your Intro Cognition class: 

By Michelle Beckett-Ansa 

1. Cognition isn’t just cognition.  

Well, it is and it isn’t. Cognition encompasses a broad spectrum of different topics, including (but not limited to) auditory perception, embodied cognition, and our topic of the day, visual perception. Visual perception is defined as the ability to see and interpret visual information that surrounds us. We respond to things that are seen in our receptive fields, the area of the body or area surrounding the body that may trigger a stimulus. 

2. Sensation vs. Perception.  

Before jumping into the crazy concept that is visual perception, you absolutely need to understand the distinction between sensation and perception. To put it simply, what do your eyes see, and what does your brain understand? Sensation is the feeling that comes in contact with your body. It is the information that you receive, and must now interpret. That is where perception comes in. Perception is the interpretation of that stimulus by the parts of your body. These concepts function together to accept and interpret information gathered from your visual field. 

3. Rods and Cones basically run the show.  

Photoreceptors are cells that respond to light touching. The eye holds two types of photoreceptors; rods and cones. These two receptors are responsible for interpreting the signals sent through your visual field. Rods are far more numerous in the eye than cones are. They are usually located in the periphery of the retina, and are more responsive to dim light. Cones on the other hand are responsive to color visuals and direct vision. They tend to be located in the center of the retina. They are much more acute than rods, because they each have their own individual cells to attach to as opposed to rods that have one cell for multiple. Together, these two typed of photoreceptors allow you to see, and to interpret your vision. 

4. People have different (mostly non-conflicting) theories about how it all works. Here’s a few. 

Not people specifically, but all of psychology. To start off, there is the trichromatic theory. This states that we perceive all colors based on the combination of three colors; red, blue, and green.  

Another theory, the opponent process theory of color vision, expresses the idea that cone cells are linked together to form three opposing color groupings: blue and yellow, red and green, and black and white.   

Lastly, we will discuss the two-stream hypothesis. This is a theory of neural processing. The brain has two streams of information processing at one time. The ventral stream sends visual information from the visual cortex to the temporal lobe. This relays information about what it is that we saw in our receptive field. Meanwhile the dorsal stream works simultaneously to relay visual information to the parietal lobe to tell us where we are.  

5. Visual Perception is crazier than you can imagine.  

Here are some cool and intriguing facts relating to visual perception:  

  1. There’s really no way to completely cover the entirety of the subject in one article, or one class.  
  2. Almost half the brain is involved in everyday sight.  
  3. Each eye has a blind spot. This is essentially a small hole in the center of the back of the retina where the optic nerve exits the eye. The cool part is, you don’t even notice that it’s there. Your eyes work with one another to fill in the gaps where the other cannot see.  
  4. The muscles controlling the eyes, out of all your muscles, are the most active (during the day) 

So yeah, visual perception and how It works can be pretty exciting. But then again, so is cognition! Take this info and go ace your Cognition course (at least the section on vision)!

El Fin 

Study Tips: "The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard"

A common question that I get in the first week of class is whether I allow laptops in the classroom. While my policy is that students can feel free to use laptops if that is their preferred method of note taking, I tell them that research has shown that they'll remember more if they take notes by hand. 

A study published in Psychological Science by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer in 2014 entitled "The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard: Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking" found that taking notes on a laptop led to worse learning than taking notes by hand. Specifically, students who took notes on a laptop performed worse on conceptual questions over the material even though they wrote more. When you take notes on a laptop you have a tendency to try to write everything down verbatim, as if your job is to provide a transcript of the lecture. Taking notes by hand, however, forces you to rephrase the information. It may be slower and you'll write less, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. By rephrasing the lecture into your own words you're processing the information more deeply than if you had simply tried to transcribe it word for word. 

So when deciding whether to lug the laptop to class or leave it at home - leave it. Less is more when it comes to note taking!

Sensation and perception - a study of Freddy Mercury

I'm not usually a consumer of S&P research nor am I a HUGE Queen fan but this article about a study looking at Mercury's voice was very interesting.  Say what you will about the man and/or his music - he was talented!  I believe Cindy Lauper and Mariah Carrey also have voices that span multiple octaves.  I wonder if they've done this kind of research on them?

Why aren't there a lot of large stadiums for swimming?

I recently heard that the research I submitted to the Canadian Positive Psychology Association conference has been accepted for presentation.  The title of the presentation is "Experiencing Flow Vicariously:  Is Watching Social Flow Better Than Watching Solitary Flow?"   My results support the hypothesis that highly social sports like soccer, basketball, or hockey are more attractive to fans than swimming, cross country, or golf because of the opportunities fans have to vicariously experience flow.  In previous research my students and I have shown that, while solitary flow is enjoyable, it is not as enjoyable as social flow..  I hypothesized that this difference would also be found with people watching others who are trying to achieve flow states alone or within a group.  So, social flow appears to be a superior experience to have actually or vicariously.  And this finding may partially explain why there are many more stadiums for soccer than swimming.

EPA Spotlight: Zombies and Memory

Michael Conley, Junior and Quentin King-Shepard, Senior with Dr. Althea Bauernschmidt

What is the title of your presentation? 

Animacy in Survival Processing

What is your research about? 

In our study we tested the relationship between two separate, but related, topics of research: animacy and survival processing. More specifically, we observed how these two mechanisms improve memory. 

Why is your research interesting/relevant/important? 

First, Zombies... that's pretty cool. More seriously, our research is Interesting in that it allows us to understand how our brain is designed and explains how the failures of our memory are simply a result of us asking the wrong questions. With research like this we can identify why our memory is better in one task as compared to another. For example, we understand memory to be at an advantage when one is faced with an animate predator versus an inanimate predator because it is more advantageous to survival. 

What are you looking forward to most about the conference? 

 I'm most excited to meet my peers who share a similar passion for psychology as well as discovering all the different research opportunities I may have in the future.