Intro to General Psychology

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sensation the process of detecting a physical stimulus, such as light, sound, heat, or pressure.
perception the process of integrating, organizing, and interpreting sensations.
sensory receptors specialized cells unique to each sense organ that respond to a particular form of sensory stimulation.
transduction the process by which a form of physical energy is converted into a coded neural signal that can be processed by the nervous system.
absolute threshold the smallest possible strength of a stimulus that can be detected half the time.
difference threshold the smallest possible difference between two stimuli that can be detected half the time; also called just noticeable difference.
Weber's law a principle of sensation that holds that the size of the just noticeable difference will vary depending on its relation to the strength of the original stimulus.
subliminal perception the perception of stimuli that are below the threshold of conscious awareness.
sensory adaptation the decline in sensitivity to a constant stimulus.
wavelength the distance from one wave peak to another.
cornea a clear membrane convering the visible part of the eye that helps gather and direct incoming light.
pupil the opening in the middle of the iris that changes size to let in different amounts of light.
iris the colored part of the eye, which is the muscle that controls the size of the pupil.
lens a transparent structure located behind the pupil that actively focuses, or bends, light as it enters the eye.
accomodation the process by which the lens changes shape to focus incoming light so that it falls on the retina.
retina a thin, light-sensitive membrane located at the back of the eye that contains the sensory receptors for vision.
rods the long, thin, blunt sensory receptors of the eye that are highly sensitive to light, but not to color, and that are primarily responsible for peripheral vision and night vision.
cones the short, thick, pointed sensory receptors of the eye that detect color and are responsible for color vision and visual acuity.
fovea a small area in the center of the retina, composed entirely of cones, where visual information is most sharply focused.
optic disk area of the retina without rods or cones, where the optic nerve exits the back of the eye.
blind spot the point at which the optic nerve leaves the eye, producing a small gap in the field of vision.
ganglion cells in the retina, the specialized neurons that connect to the bipolar cells, the bundled axons of the gangion cells form the optic nerve.
bipolar cells in the retina, the specialized neurons that connect the rods and cones with the ganglion cells.
optic nerve the thick nerve that exits from the back of the eye and carries visual information to the visual cortex in the brain.
optic chiasm point in the brain where the optic nerve fibers from each eye meet and partly cross over to the opposite side of the brain.
color the perceptual experience of different wavelengths of light, involving hue-saturation (purity) and brightness (intensity)
hue the proeprty of wavelengths of light known as color; different wavelengths correspond to our subjective experience of different colors.
saturation the property of color that corresponds to the purity of the light wave.
brightness the perceived intensity of a color, which corresponds to the amplitude of the light wave.
color blindness one of several inherited forms of color deficiency or weakness in which an individual cannot distinguish between certain colors.
afterimage a visual experience that occurs after the original source of stimulation is no longer present.
audition the technical term for the sense of hearing.
loudness the intensity (or amplitude) of a sound wave, measured in decibels.
amplitude the intensity or amount of energy of a wave, reflected in the height of the wave, the amplitude of a sound wave, determines its loudness.
decibel the unit of measurement for loudness
pitch the relative highness or lowness of a sound, determined by the frequency of a sound wave.
frequency the rise of vibration, or the number of sound waves, per second.
timbre the distinctive quality of a sound, determined by the complexity of the sound wave.
outer ear the part of the ear that collects sound waves; consists of the pinna, the ear canal, and the eardrum.
outer ear the part of the ear that collects sound waves; consists of the pinna, the ear canal, and the eardrum.
eardrum a tightly stretched membrane at the end of the ear canal that vibrates when hit by sound waves.
middle ear the part of the ear that amplifies sound waves; consists of three small bones, the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup.
inner ear the part of the ear where sound is transduced into neural impulses; consists of the cochlea and semicircular canals.
cochlea the coiled, fluid-filled inner-ear structure that contains the basilar membrane and hair cells.
basilar membrane the membrane within the cochlea of the ear that contains the hair cells.
hair cells the hairlike sensory receptors for sound, which are embedded in the basilar membrane of the cochlea.
olfaction technical name for the sense of smell.
gustation technical name for the sense of taste.
pheromones chemical signals released by an animal that communicate information and affect the behavior of other animals of the same species.
olfactory bulb the enlarged ending of the olfactory cortex at the front of the brain where the sensation of smell is registered.
taste buds the specialized sensory receptors for taste that are located on the tongue and inside the mouth and throat.
pain the unpleasant sensation of physical discomfort or suffering that can occur in varying degrees of intensity.
gate-control theory the theory that pain is a product of both physiological and psychological factors that cause spinal gates to open and relay patterns of intense stimulation to the brain, which perceives them as pain.
substance P a neurotransmitter that is involved in the transmission of pain messages to the brain.
kinesthetic sense the technical name for the sense of location and position of the body parts in relation to one another.
proprioceptors sensory receptors located in the muscles and joints that provide information about body position and movement.
vestibular sense the technical name for the sense of balance, or equilibrium.
bottom-up processing information processing that emphasizes the importance of the sensory receptors in detecting the basic features of a stimulus in the process of recognizing a whole pattern; analysis that moves from the parts to the whole; also called data-driven processing.
top-down processing information processing that emphasizes the importance of the observer's knowledge, expectations, and other cognitive processes in arriving at meaningful perceptions; analysis that moves from the whole to the parts; also called conceptually driven processing.
ESP (extrasensory perception) perception of information by some means other than through the normal processes of sensation.
parapsychology the scientific investigation of paranormal phenomena and abilities.
Gestalt psychology a school of psychology founded in Germany in the early 1900s that maintained that our sensations are actively processed according to consistent perceptual rules that result in meaningful whole perceptions, or gestalts.
figure-ground relationship a Gestalt principle of perceptual organization that states that we automatically separate the elements of perception into the feature that clearly stands out (the figure) and its less distinct background (the ground).
depth perception the use of visual cues to perceive the distance or three-dimensional characteristics of objects.
monocular cues distance or depth cues that can be processed by either eye alone.
bioncular cues distance or depth cues that require the use of both eyes.
perceptual constancy the tendency to perceive objects, especially familiar objects, as constant and unchanging despite changes in sensory input.
size constancy the perception of an object as maintaining the same size despite changing images on the retina.
shape constancy the perception of a familiar object as maintaining the same shape regardless of the image produced on the retina.
perceptual illusion the misperception of the true characteristics of an object or an image.
Muller-Lyer illusion a famous visual illusion involving the misperception of the identical length of two lines, one with arrows painted inward, one with arrows pointed outward.
moon illusion a visual illusion involving the misperception that the moon is larger when it is on the horizon than when it is directly overhead.
perceptual set the influence of prior assumptions and expectations on perceptual interpretations.