Sensation and Perception

teacup turquoise
The sensory data that are normally required to see a cup are not present in this stimulus – and yet we perceive a cup. Would we perceive it if we hadn’t been raised in a coffee-drinking society?

We tend to assume in everyday life that we perceive the outside world exactly as it is. In reality, however, there are many physical energies that we are not equipped to detect. Furthermore, we organise and interpret the information we receive based on our past experience and other psychological factors. Our perceptions are therefore our own personal representations of the physical energies that batter our senses at every turn.

The sensory data that our sensory organs receive are at that stage meaningless; only when our brain receives the electrochemical energy that is sent to it from each set of sensory receptors can we begin to organise this information and make sense of the bewildering environment around us.

Yet every day we conjure meaning from the cacophony of sound, the blazes and flickers of light, the chemical compounds and the physical taps, nudges and thumps that we encounter. This is an indication of our astonishing perceptual gifts, yet in some respects I find the perceptual oddities and surprises, along with the errors that we make, more intriguing. Mistakes are always more revealing than perfection.

– Ms Green

book2, clipartlord, pdRead

television with play button







Examples of Visual Stimuli

Bec, Emily and James

This stimulus illustrates the Gestalt principle of closure, since most English speakers can read it despite the missing elements. (Designed by Bec, James and Emily)

clock by ngoc

Ngoc designed this visual stimulus to illustrate the principle of closure. You could also argue that the principle of similarity is at work.

Convergence and Retinal Disparity two times Roslyn Green

How retinal disparity works: If you focus on my two faces from a distance of 5-10 centimetres (crossing your eyes slightly might help), you may discover after a while that you have fused the two images into another, spookily three-dimensional one in the middle. This procedure works better when the image is on paper, so you can also try printing this version: download paper version here.

teacups improved gestalt similarity

This stimulus illustrates the Gestalt principle of similarity. We perceive the red saucers and their “cups” as belonging to a group.

gestalt proximity

We perceive  the the dots as columns rather than rows as a result of the Gestalt principle of similarity.

Green illusion

An illusion: In the context of the gradual change of colour gradient in the background rectangle, the block of green in the foreground is perceived as having a gradual colour gradient too, yet in reality it is a solid block of colour like the green rod at the bottom.

Jesus in snow drawn by me

If you perceive this as a man’s face, you must be applying the Gestalt principles of figure-ground and closure at least. If you interpret the face as that of Jesus, then your cultural background or artistic experience is also coming into play and influencing your perception. (This is a simplified version of the original stimulus, which may be viewed here.)

FullSizeRender (13)

This stimulus, designed by Jude, can be organised and interpreted in more than one way, as either a mouth with rather narrow teeth or as a forest behind a meadow. You notice yourself switching back and forth between the alternative interpretations, which indicates that this is a successful ambiguous stimulus. Would you be more likely to perceive a mouth if you had just kissed someone? Would you be more likely to see the trees if you were a nature-lover?

Sam boat Sam alien

Sam’s stimulus is organised and interpreted differently, depending on which way up you look at it. The figure on the left could be a boat in rocky waters, while the figure on the right could be an alien – or a psychology teacher.


Kate’s stimulus provides an example of the principle of closure. We perceive a head, a face and dark glasses, even though none of these features is completely represented.


Althea’s visual stimulus is perceived as complete circles and lines, even though none of the circles have a complete contour. This demonstrates once more our tendency to apply the closure principle in order to perceive wholes.


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Mental Well-Being and Mental Disorders

three sad silhouettes




•Revision Quiz: Sample Exam Questions (with Answers) | Quiz as PDF with Answers

•Revision Quiz: Unit 1 Trivia by Ms Corbo | PDF: Solutions

population and sample
Click on the picture to try the first revision quiz.



cognitive social motor

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Development | Piaget and a Child’s Mind

“Human knowledge is essentially active.”

• Jean Piaget •

A child, as Piaget showed, thinks in a qualitatively different way from an adult.
A child, as Piaget showed, thinks in a way that is qualitatively different from an adult.

Children think differently from adults.

This seems self-evident to us now, yet before the theory of Jean Piaget permeated the ideas of parents and educators, it was more commonly believed that children were like miniature adults who just needed to receive the knowledge we imparted. So it was that they were seated in straight lines in primary schools, where they wrote in copy books and learnt by rote. To a large extent, they were viewed as “empty vessels” needing to be filled.

Piaget revolutionised our view of children’s minds by challenging the notion of children as passive receivers of adult knowledge. He viewed them instead as “little scientists” who learn by doing, by theorising, by experimenting and by constantly refining their mental constructions, or schemas, of the world.

Piaget’s ideas have been studied, evaluated and questioned for decades. Many aspects of his stage theory of cognitive development have been challenged and disputed. Yet his theory remains as a monumental contribution to our understanding of children and their intriguing “ways of knowing”.

Ms Green

"Children have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves, and each time that we try to teach them something too quickly, we keep them from reinventing it themselves." - Piaget
“Children have real understanding only of that which they invent themselves, and each time that we try to teach them something too quickly, we keep them from reinventing it themselves.” – Piaget


television with play button



Downloads (as PDFs)

Crash Course Psychology: The Growth of Knowledge

"It’s just that no adult ever had the idea of asking children about conservation. It was so obvious that if you change the shape of an object, the quantity will be conserved. Why ask a child? The novelty lay in asking the question." – Piaget, 1970
“It’s just that no adult ever had the idea of asking children about conservation. It was so obvious that if you change the shape of an object, the quantity will be conserved. Why ask a child? The novelty lay in asking the question.” – Piaget, 1970
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Ethical issues | More on the brain

Your brain and your dancing neurons…





Although the phrenologists were wrong, they did have the influential idea that brain functions are localised. When their pseudoscience was ultimately debunked, the idea of localisation of function remained.

This video, from the superb “Crash Course Psychology” series, explores the link between the brain as a physical object and the mind, that concept we employ to refer to our consciousness, our memories, our decisions, our being, our very selves: what makes us who we are.

I always find that Hank Green, in his Crash Course videos, provides a sweeping, brilliant overview of everything you’ve ever wanted to know and understand – with fast talking, funky graphics and true human stories to boot.

Click on each red pin in order to identify the parts of a neuron.

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Split-brain experiments

Essential links

An example of a split-brain experiment





PDF: Chart showing structure of nervous system – to be filled in

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 12.48.17 pm

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From Primate to Human

Essential links:





Handy App

«Pocket» lets you save all your articles and studies to one place and revisit them later – like a reference list maker – Apple App | Android App | Mac | Windows & Chrome

rodent brain, primate brainThe TED talk presented below by Suzana Herculano-Huzel,  an eminent neuroscientist, should whet your appetite for our first major unit of study: the human brain.

This creative and determined scientist had heard many times that our brain contained about 100 billion neurons. Rather than take this figure for granted, especially as she had not been able to discover the original source of this assumption, she invented a systematic and innovative way to count the number of neurons in the human brain and indeed in the brains of other mammals. She used her findings to investigate the different kinds of mammalian brains and draw conclusions about what makes our brain different from that of other mammals – and yet similar to that of other primates.

After watching the video, try this quiz, which may jog your memory on the main points and even inspire you to a second viewing of the presentation.

Video of a patient whose brain is being electrically stimulated during an operation to remove a tumour:

An example of MRI-guided laser ablation surgery:


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Research Investigation: Begin by formulating a single question…

Links to potentially useful sites and studies:







Dear Year 11 students,

lightbulb 2, clipartlord, pdThe pinboard of recent research below as well as the list of possible study options above should serve as a useful starting point for you. Select a topic that interests you and try to turn it into a question that could be the focus of your research investigation. Then search for related studies, saving links to any that seem promising and gradually refining your question. 

For instance, after reading the study on the pinboard that explores the relationship between adolescent marijuana use and cognitive performance, you might formulate the question:

How does marijuana use affect the social and cognitive development of teenagers?

As you can see, this question is somewhat broader than the study. You would need to look for more studies that might allow you to tackle all parts of this question. In the process, you might refine the question you wish to ask, depending on the studies you find. Slowly you will build up a range of studies and begin to narrow your options for your research investigation. You need to find three related studies, one of which will be your featured study.

Once you begin your own frenetic googling, be careful to type specific search terms in the search bar. For instance: “psychological studies, marijuana use in adolescence, effects” will deliver more useful options than just “marijuana”. Whenever you find a really well-explained study that other students might also like to use, copy a link to it and put it in a comment on this post. Gradually we will build up a long list of useful and revealing studies.

Kind regards and happy hunting!

Ms Green and Ms Corbo

Click here to view the pinboard below on the whole screen
Psychology – Research Investigation

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Getting organised…

Ms Corbo and Ms GreenDear Year 11 students,

Welcome to a new year of study!

The first presentation below provides some ideas for quality note-taking based on how your long-term memory works. 

You can also download the file of suggestions for your research investigation at the link below the presentation.

In case you have replaced the hints and handouts given out late last year, look at the post below this one.

We wish you a happy and rewarding year in 2016.

Kind regards from

Roslyn Green and Gemma Corbo

Attention, Long-Term Memory and Quality Note-Taking

Explanations of introductory activities:

The last activity referred to in the handout and the explanations is titled: “Become a student rat”. It required you to “shape” a fellow student’s behaviour. The video below will provide you with a practical application of this idea, based on operant conditioning, a concept developed and studied intensively by the famous behaviourist, B.F.Skinner. 

Two extra handouts:

And a fascinating story:

The Man who Mistook his Wife for a Hat

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Preparing for next year

teenager typing
Research Investigation

Dear Year 10/11 students,

Welcome to Unit 1 and 2 Psychology. This is the handout we are using in our transition class. Please pass on the link to this blog to any of your fellow students who were unable to attend today.

Practical and Intellectual Preparation for Year 11 Psychology – PDF

The document below also provides some examples of questions that could become the basis of your Unit 1 Research Investigation. Download the WORD format so that you can click on the links and explore these options. You will ultimately have the opportunity to develop your own research question, but we hope that you will find this a useful starting point.

Research Investigation Starter: Word Format | PDF Format

The website link below will lead you to many fascinating, clearly described and recent studies into topics such as mental illness, brain imaging, stress, sleep and other issues of potential interest to you in your future studies. One of these studies could become a starting point for your Research Investigation in Unit 1.

We suggest that you select three studies that immediately pique your interest and write down their titles. This will be the first entry in your log for next year’s Outcome 3.

Kind regards,

Ms Corbo and Ms Green

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