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Vision Psychology

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Vision Psychology

What is one of the first things you notice about someone? Perhaps it's their hair, smile, or even their eyes. The eyes play an important role, not only in vision but also in social and emotional connection. The eyes have even been called "the window to the soul" as they are a key part of human interaction and connection.

  • What is vision?
  • How do we see?
  • How is the visual information processed?
  • How do we use our visual perceptions to create an entire scene?

Definition of Vision in Psychology

Our eyes can receive an excessive amount of energy and process images and light in a fraction of a second. How does vision work? Why can we see color? How do we know how far something is when we look at it? The following text will provide some answers.

Vision psychology, an image of an eye, StudySmarterAn eye up close, wikicommons.com

Stimulus Input

Our eyes can take light energy and turn them into neural images for our brain to compute. When you look at, for example, a bright yellow ball, your eyes capture pulses of electromagnetic energy into your eyes, and your brain says, "that ball is yellow". There are two characteristics of light that allow us to see colors; wavelength and intensity.

Did you know that butterflies can't perceive the color red as we humans can? Instead, they see ultraviolet light!

Light Energy

A wavelength is a distance from one wave peak to the next. These peaks in the wavelength determine the hue of a color that we are perceiving.

Wavelengths have their amount of energy, which influences the intensity of the color.

How does the eye take light wavelengths to create a color? What areas of the eye does all this work?

Process of Vision in Psychology

The eye has many working components to process colors; the pupil, iris, lens, and retina. Light goes through the pupil like a tunnel. Around this tunnel, or pupil, is the iris which changes and controls the size of the pupil. The iris is in charge of how much light is being let into the pupil. Behind the pupil, is the lens of the eye that focuses on the incoming light and transfers messages or images to the retina.

Vision psychology, parts of the eye, StudySmarterThe eye, pixabay.com

The retina is not responsible for creating the images that we perceive. It takes light particles, creates neural impulses, and sends them to the brain. The retina does not "see" the images, but instead, the brain deciphers the messages.

The Retina

So, how does the retina pass these messages to the brain? If we looked at one light particle into the eye, we would travel to the rods and cones. Here, the light energy triggers chemicals that spark neural signals and talk to the bipolar cell close by. The bipolar cells will then talk to the nearby ganglion cells that form the eye's optic nerve. The optic nerve then sends the message to our brain, where the thalamus is ready to receive the message.

Visual Information Processing

After your retina processes the message, the light particles pass through it and send the information to the optic nerve; the message is received in the thalamus. But then what happens? The information processed in the thalamus is sent to the occipital lobe in the visual cortex portion of the brain.

Feature Detection

Feature detection cells are important in understanding the features of a scene (lines, edges, angles). When patterns are more complex, these feature detection cells pass information to other brain cortical areas, and supercell clusters become responsive. An example of this would be recognizing a person's face and its elements (freckles, eye color, etc.). Face and object recognition both happen in different areas of the brain.

Brain activity is so specific that brain scans show if a person is looking at a shoe, a table, or a face, based on their brain activity pattern.

Parallel Processing

Your brain can process many features at once in a process called parallel processing. It can divide the scene into subdimensions in a visual scene and simultaneously use these dimensions. Your brain can take the information sent from your retinas, send it to different brain areas, and then create an entire scene into one piece in milliseconds.

Color Vision

How is it possible that we can look at the sky and all agree that it is blue? Light itself is not full of colors - there are light pulses in wavelengths. After much research, Hermann von Helmholtz realized that the brain uses three primary colors (first proposed by physicist Thomas Young), red, green, and blue. This became the Young-Helmholtz trichromatic (three-color) theory, which explains that the retina has three color receptors (sensitive to the colors red, green, and blue). When wavelengths stimulate these color receptors, they can produce an array of color combinations. Later, another theory was proposed for understanding the processing of colors.

vision psychology, primary colors, StudySmarterprimary colors, pixabay.com

The opponent-process theory agrees that there are three different color receptors in the retina. However, the colors they perceive are different. Instead, these receptors sets receive red-green, white-black, and yellow-blue. Within the brain and retina, some receptors are turned on by red and turned off by green. The colors can travel as messages in different tunnels of our retina and into the thalamus in a way that can distinguish colors.

Visual Organization

How does our mind form a whole scene from many pieces of information? Through their research, psychologists in Germany realised that people organize these sensations, such as a vision, and create a whole scene. This is the birth of Gestalt theory.

Form Perception

Firstly, our vision follows figure-ground, which means that our vision organizes our visual field by noticing the figures that stand out from the ground. Once our vision has established which figures stand out from the ground, we can bring order to what we are looking at. This is called grouping, the perceptual ability to organize stimuli into groups. Gestalt theorists were able to identify three examples of how we can group stimuli.

Continuity - we perceive smooth images that are not discontinued.

Proximity - we can group figures that are nearby each other.

Closure - we can fill in gaps automatically to create a complete image.

Depth Perception

Our vision can tell us how far an object is from us because of our depth perception. Depth perception allows us to estimate how far a car is from us or how close the cafe is from where we are walking. But how are we able to understand and perceive depth?

Monocular and binocular cues allow us to understand the depth of objects in our field of vision. When our vision is estimating the distance of an object close, this is considered a binocular cue (using both eyes for measurement). When both eyes are used, there are two sets of images that our brain can compare to make a whole picture. This is because our eyes are placed closely together, and they measure with both retinas. If the object is much further away, both eyes cannot make the judgment correctly. Monocular cues (the use of one eye) gauge the distance.

Motion Perception

Motion perception is based significantly on the assumptions of the brain. Your brain assumes that if an image or object is getting smaller, it must be retreating, and things that are getting larger are coming towards you. Also, if the object is large, our brains will say that the image is moving slower when that may not be the case. For example, if you look into the sky and notice an airplane, you may think that it is moving incredibly slow when in fact, it moves at very high speeds.

Perceptual Constancy

Next, we can ask, "How do we make these organized images have meaning?" Perceptual constancy is the ability to recognize images as unchanging based on color, shape, and size. Our brain categorizes objects by color and brightness as well as shape and size.

Color and Brightness & Shape and Size

Color constancy allows for the perception of familiar objects with consistent colours, such as a green apple. If we see a green apple inside a blue grocery bag, the illumination of the color would not be considered consistent. If we see the same green apple alone on a plate, we will recognize the familiar color green of the apple. Shape and size can also affect our perception of images or objects. For example, our bedroom door looks the same as it always has. The shape and size will seemingly change as it opens, although this is not the case. This is called shape constancy.

Vision psychology, image of a door, StudySmarter

door, flaticon.com

Vision - Key takeaways

  • There are two characteristics of light that allow us to see colors; wavelength and intensity.
    • A wavelength is the distance from one wave peak to the next wavelength.

    • These peaks in the wavelength determine the hue of a color that we are perceiving.

  • There are many working components of the eye involved in processing colors; the pupil, iris, lens, and retina.

  • Our brain can divide the scene into subdimensions in a visual scene and use each of these dimensions simultaneously.

  • Our vision follows figure-ground, which means that our vision organizes our visual field by noticing the figures that stand out from the ground.

  • Depth perception allows us to estimate how far a car is from us or how close the cafe is from where we are walking.

Frequently Asked Questions about Vision Psychology

Vision is the ability to see images and objects through wavelengths of light.

Vision is important in psychology because the eyes play an important role, not only in vision but also in social and emotional connection. The eyes have even been called "the window to the soul" as they are a key part of human interaction and connection.

Vision in cognitive psychology is information processing in order to understand images and objects that surround us as stimulus. 

Vision affects behavior by allowing us to recognize images allowing us to process sensations. This can be seen through form perception, depth perception, and motion perception. How we move and why we move is used on visual input.

Vision impacts learning because when we are not able to perceive visual information, we rely on other stimulus to understand information. An example of this is through stronger hearing.

Final Vision Psychology Quiz

Question

What is a basic definition of vision?

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Answer

The refraction of light absorbed by the eye forms into a neural impulse, followed by the process of perception.

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What is the Iris?

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The colored circular structure of the eye.

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What is the lens?

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A curved-shaped disk that bends and flexes its shape to help focus light.

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What is the cornea?

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Sits on the top of the iris and lens and acts as a clear protective barrier to the eye.

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What is the ciliary body of the eye?

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A circular muscle attached to the lens to help bend and shape the lens.

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Describe the retina.

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Answer

One of the most essential visual structures. It is located in the back of the eye and is home to the photoreceptors.



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Describe the optic nerve?

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Nerve fibers attached to the back of the eye sending visual information to the brain.



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What do photoreceptors do?

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Answer

Convert light into neural impulses.

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What are the two types of photoreceptors?

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Rods and cones

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What are rods (in visual anatomy)?

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Photoreceptors that are activated in low light.

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What are cones (in visual anatomy)?

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Light-activated photoreceptors that are responsible for detailed vision.

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What is the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN)?

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Answer

Located at the mid-brain in the thalamus, the LGN organizes the visual information by visual fields.

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What is Accommodation?

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Answer

The focus between either near or farther objects through the contraction of the lens.

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What is visual acuity?

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Answer

The amount of detail and sharpness in your visual perception.

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The average human has more cones than rods. True or False?

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Answer

False. 

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What are two characteristics of light that allow us to see colors?

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Answer

Wavelength and intensity 

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A _____ is a distance from one wave peak to the next wavelength.


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Answer

wavelength

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These peaks in the wavelength are what determine the ____ of a color that we are

perceiving.

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Answer

hue

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There are lots of working components of the eye which are involved in processing colors. What are they?

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Answer

 the pupil, iris, lens, and retina.

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Light travels through the ____?

A. iris

B. pupil

C. monocular cue


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Answer

 B. pupil

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What part of the eye changes the size of the pupil?

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Answer

The iris

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What cells form the optic nerve?

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Answer

the ganglion cells

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____ cells are important in understanding the features of a scene (lines, edges, angles).

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Answer

Feature detection

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______ allows us to estimate how far a car is from us or how close the cafe is from where we are walking.

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Answer

Depth perception

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_______ is the ability to recognize images as unchanging based on color shape, and size.

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Answer

Perceptual constancy

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Behind the pupil is the ___ of the eye that focuses on the incoming light and passages messages or images to the retina.

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Answer

lens

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True or False: A wavelength in charge of sending messages to the optic nerve. 

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Answer

False

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Your brain assumes that if an image or object is getting smaller, then the object

must be _____.

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Answer

retreating

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Gestalt theorists were able to identify three examples of how we can group stimuli. What are they?

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Answer

Continuity, proximity, and closure.

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____ and binocular cues allow us to understand the depth of objects in our field of vision.

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Answer

Monocular

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Question

It is defined as the ability of all the organs (brain, eyes, nerves, etc.) to interpret data received from the environment:

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Visual perception

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True or False: Visual perception is different from visual acuity.

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Answer

True

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What are the four different types of vision?

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Photopic, color, scotopic, mesopic

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This is another feature of visual abilities that allows humans and animals to interpret different wavelengths of light.


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Color vision

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What are the cells responsible for converting light into nerve signals?

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Rods and cones

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What are some examples of the significance of visual perception?

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Answer

Operating machinery and driving

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What are the two types of processing with regards to visual perception?


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Top down and bottom up processing

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Who proposed top down processing?

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Richard Gregory

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What are examples of top down processing in visual perception?

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Optical illusions

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What is a criticism in top down processing theory?

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The case of infant visual perception

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How is visual perception processed according to the bottom up approach?

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Answer

Perception is an evolutionary feature of humans that does not need constant hypothesis testing to make sense of visual data.

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What are criticisms of the bottom up processing theories?

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Misinterpretations regarding optical illusions

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This concept means, "One's visual perceptual skills is an interaction of both theories, where the brain makes the best judgment possible using these altering processes".

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Perceptual Cycle

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Who proposed the bottom up processing in visual perception?

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Answer

James Gibson

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It is defined as the sensory and perception of the visual system in the dark or low-light environment.

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Scotopic vision

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Receptors are responsible for what part of sensory processing?

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Answer

Receiving sensory information

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What occurs during transduction?

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Answer

The properties of the stimulus are translated into nerve impulses.

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_______ processing ends where _______ processing begins.

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Sensory; Perceptual

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__________ processing is when the brain uses a higher level of mental processing from our previous experiences and expectations to understand and perceive new stimuli.

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Top-down

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During which stage of the perceptual process do we begin to assign meaning to the stimulus information received?

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Answer

Interpretation/Evaluation

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