Illusions, ambiguous figures and other visual phenomena
The thing about illusions is, they trick you even when you know why. Understanding that you are making a visual error doesn’t help you to correct it.
Below are some examples of illusions. There are also some visual stimuli where the figure and ground swap depending on which part of the picture you focus on. Some of the visual stimuli below promote more than one possible interpretation, either through the figure-ground swap or because they are ambiguous in some other way.
These so-called ambiguous figures show how the visual system works. Our expectations influence what we ultimately perceive; they also lead us to and make hypotheses about what we are seeing and test them until the evidence before our eyes matches our hypothesis.
More examples of illusions, ambiguous stimuli and other visual phenomena are shown below.
♦For each one, observe whether your way of perceiving it is always the same. Do you find yourself switching from one organisation or interpretation to another?
If so, this image is serving to illustrate for you the way in which humans make hypotheses about the visual stimuli before them, imposing meanings on the stimuli according to expectation, experience or motivation. The context in which the stimulus appears can also influence how we interpret it.
The Necker Cube, kindly provided by http://www.wpclipart.com
Illusions and ambiguous figures also illustrate the difference between visual sensation and visual perception. In the case of ambiguous figures, we are receiving the same pattern of light energy, converting it and shooting it off to the brain in exactly the same way, yet the brain can organise that sensory information in more than one way. One set of visual sensations can yield more than one possible perception.
The Relative Size Illusion, kindly provided by http://www.wpclipart.com
The famous figure-ground swapping Rubin's vase - or is it two faces? Picture provided by www.wpclipart.com
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The humble rat has had plenty to do with the history of psychology. Some might say too much. At this blog we show our appreciation for the work of rats, who have demonstrated that they can learn, play basketball, ride on skateboards, press levers and run mazes - all with a certain bright-eyed eagerness and patience towards their human oppressors.
The Effects of Hippocampus Damage
The hippocampus plays a vital role in the creation of long-term memories. People with severe damage to this part of the brain display limitations in the ability to encode new information in their long-term memories. Watch this video to find out more.
The Salivating Dog
Ivan Pavlov was studying biology and digestion when he noticed something odd: the dogs in his experiment salivated BEFORE they were given the meat powder. Pavlov had identified a form of learning that makes it possible to condition people to respond in a reflex way.
That means, you can LEARN to respond INVOLUNTARILY. Spooky, but true.
A Pecking Pigeon
In this form of learning the organism acts on the environment in order to gain a reward (or avoid something unpleasant).
A simple introduction to this idea is provided in the video below:
Teaching Pigeons to Play Ping-Pong
No, they can't hold the little racquets; they have to use their beaks. But they are very dedicated players, for all that. These pigeons have learned to play a version of table tennis, with the help of the principles of operant conditioning.
Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment
This is one of the infamous experiments that nevertheless provided intriguing insights into the potential influence of power and status on human behaviour.
After the horrific footage from Abu Ghraib, Zimbardo became a celebrity in the USA. Yet it's instructive to remember that he wanted to continue this experiment for the originally proposed two weeks, and only stopped it at the insistence of his partner (later his wife). He admits now that he was wrong to be reluctant, but at the time it seemed to be a compelling contribution to science.
What do you think?
Teaching a Rat to Play Basketball
Complex behaviours can be taught through SHAPING - rewarding something that is a small step towards the behaviour you finally want the organism to display.
For instance, if I wanted my daughter to clean her room, I could reward her at first just for making her bed, then for picking up an item from the floor...This shaping process can take a while. My daughter and I are still working on it.
But thankfully the little rat in the video below is pretty quick on the uptake.
A Modern Replication of Milgram’s Experiment
This chilling experiment from the 1960s is replicated in the modern day.
At one stage one of the participants, with a little giggle, says to the experimenter, "Have we killed him?"
Recommended viewing for all those who do not wish to follow too slavishly the commands of a malevolent authority figure...
A Reenactment of Milgram’s Obedience Experiment
See the comments in the box directly above. Below are the second and third parts of the Milgram-like experiment.
What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
This little video will give you a clear introduction to this devastating disease.
The Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease
This is a brief video about the effects of Alzheimer's Disease.
Freud and the Talking Cure
These brief but helpful introductory videos about Sigmund Freud provide insight into the historical context of his ideas and show the vital importance of the unconscious mind in his theory. By watching them you will also gain some appreciation of the revolutionary nature of his work; while other doctors prescribed, he listened...
Freud became interested in the study of hysteria. His famous case study of Anna O allowed him to develop many of his ideas. It was Anna herself who suggested the term "talking cure" to describe Freud's methods.
Ultimately Freud published "The Interpretation of Dreams", a significant but initially unpopular book. Despite public resistance to his ideas, gradually his theory gained credibility, until the concepts he created and the words he coined became part of the world's language.
A Sleep Laboratory
This footage provides a step-by-step description of what happens in a sleep laboratory, showing the measures of physiological responses that are used.
At this website you can find helpful material, such as a checklist of changes to memory and cognitive functions that occur in Alzheimer’s disease, an explanation of how normal memory decline in older age is different from that experienced by dementia suff
Many photos on this blog were taken by Mimi_K on her worldwide travels. Click on this link to go straight to her photostream at flickr.com. The photo above is titled “Banksy’s bp rat on a roof” and seems quite appropriate to grace this blog.
Genes to Cognition Online Website
A brilliant site offering detailed descriptions of the brain and cognitive processes, including videos of experts and a 3D model of the brain.
History of Psychology
This website makes it possible to read many scholarly dissertations in the original. It is not for the faint-hearted reader, but the depth of information is excellent.
Mind and Body – Philosophy meets Psychology
An online exhibition designed originally to celebrate psychology’s first century as an independent discipline. It especially considers the ideas of Descartes and William James.
Neuroscience for Kids
This brilliant site is professional, detailed and very helpful. Even though it has the appendage “for kids”, the material is quite complex and will help you to understand many topics.
Nobel Prize Website
This website offers a number of detailed descriptions of Nobel Prize winning experiments that relate to psychology, including Pavlov’s drooling dog experiments, the famous “split-brain” experiments and the use of MRI scans to study the brain. Scroll down
Public Broadcasting Service Website
This site offers detailed scientific information on topics relevant to all four units of senior psychology, including topics such as autism, the making of memories in the brain, brain studies, genetic research and so on.
This link takes you to a youtube video that shows you how a sleep laboratory works. It shows you the different physiological measurements that are used to record and study sleep.