Sensation and Perception (S&P) for Psych Majors-- PSYC 4041 / 6014 (Spring 2021)

Syllabus and Course Overview


Bruce Walker


Room 230, Psychology Building (JS Coon Building)


(404) 894-8265


Office Hours:

After class and by appointment



Teaching Assistants:  

Sweta Parmar (

Mary Bernhardt (

TA Office Hours:




Class Schedule:

MWF 11:00 - 11:50 am Eastern Time; via MS Teams (remote, synchronous)

PSYC 4041 Lab:

Friday 2:00 - 4:45 pm Eastern Time; via MS Teams (remote, synchronous)

Lab Instructors:

Sweta Parmar (

Mary Bernhardt (


More complete details on the course schedule, the details of the final paper, and the list of readings (with links to downloads) is available in the Canvas site for the course. Most of the content of this website has been migrated to Canvas, as of Spring 2021.

Required Textbook:

Goldstein, E. B. & Brockmole, James R. (2017). Sensation and Perception, 10th Edition. Cengage Learning. (ISBN-10: 130558029X ISBN-13: 978-1305580299)

Course Description

We will examine how humans (and in some cases, other animals) sense and perceive the world around us. First we will consider the philosophical questions that humans have long posed about perception, and study the methods and techniques scientists use to try to answer them. We will study the sensory pathways, fundamental perceptual processing, and higher-level meaning-making. We will cover the orienting senses, skin senses, chemical senses (smell and taste), audition, vision, and the perception of time. We will consider sensation and perception from several perspectives: physiological, psychophysical, ecological, motivational, and computational. This diversity of viewpoints also allows us to look at multi-sensory perceptual processes. The course will be largely in lecture format, with as much discussion as possible. Class participation will be important to your success in the course. There will be two midterms and a final exam. There is also a laboratory associated with the PSYC 4041 course.

Educational Philosophy for this Course

I believe that advanced undergraduate graduate level courses and all graduate level courses should focus on discussion and integration with other courses. However, in order to have a meaningful discussion in this topic area, there are a lot of facts to learn first: historical dates; the parts and functioning of the perceptual systems; neural pathways and brain regions; theories; processes; functions; etc. Students will be left to learn many of the more straightforward facts through the required reading, supplemental resources (e.g., companion web site), private study groups, or discussion outside of class. You may be tested on all material covered in lectures, as well as material from the textbook and additional required readings that is not covered in class. Where necessary, more complex material will be taught, and examples worked, in class. As much time as possible will be reserved for discussion, much of it led by students. However, there is a lot to learn, so in order to get the chance to discuss, we may move quickly through basic material. You are expected to have read the required material before class, and be prepared to contribute to an integrative and meaningful discussion.

Learning Objectives

Statement Regarding Students with Disabilities

In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, students with bona fide disabilities will be afforded reasonable accommodation. The GT Office of Disability Servies will certify a disability and advise faculty members of reasonable accommodations. The web site to get started with a request for accommodation is: .


Students are expected to do their own work at all times and to follow the university's codes of academic conduct and the honor code. Cases of suspected inappropriate collaboration or cheating will be immediately forwarded to the GT Office of Student Integrity (, and will be pursued to resolution. This is an unpleasant process for all involved, so please do not put yourself in this situation.

Students are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner--this entails handing assignments in on time and showing up for class, labs, and exams at the appointed time. Late assignments will not be accepted, and make-up exams will not be given. If some form of GT-approved prior commitment prevents a student from taking an exam at the given time, PRIOR arrangements (including documentation where appropriate) should be made with the instructor. Note that the final exam will be scheduled by the Registrar, and not the course instructor. Final exam scheduling conflicts will be resolved according to official university procedures.

Extra work, after the semester, is not allowed to "bring up" a grade. A student's grade shall be earned from their performance solely on the semester's work.

Grading is determined by a semester-long accumulation of points, weighed in percentage as summarized below. It is usually not necessary to adjust or curve grades. However, the instructor reserves the right to adjust or curve grades, both upwards and/or downwards, should it be necessary. Such adjustment would only be done at the end of the semester, and not on individual assignments or exams.

PSYC 4041 (Undergraduate Psychology majors):
Midterm Exam I - 50 points
Midterm Exam II - 50 points
Final Exam - 100 points
Lecture TOTAL: 200 points for PSYC 4041

LAB Course for 4041 will contribute 25% to the overall grade for 4041. That is, the lab course will have a grade out of 100 points, but that will be multiplied by 25%. The grade for the lecture portion of the course will be converted to a score out of 75 points, and added to the lab score. That sum will be the final grade for students in 4041.

PSYC 6014 (graduate students):
Midterm Exam I - 50 points
Midterm Exam II - 50 points
Final Exam - 100 points
Final Research Proposal (Grad Students in PSYC 6014, only) - 100 points
TOTAL: 300 points for PSYC 6014

Experiment Participation for Extra Credit

This course stresses the scientific study of sensation and perception. One way to learn more about, and also to support, psychological science is to participate in studies and experiments underway in the School of Psychology. To encourage such participation (and learning), students may earn a total of three (3) extra credit points, typically one point for each hour of experiment participation. To participate, you will need to sign up on the web-based psychology subject pool manager (SONA: You will be assigned credit in the SONA system by the experimenter, after you participate satisfactorily in the study. Different studies earn different credit, but it is almost always the case that one hour of participation earns one hour of Experimetrix credit. It is the student's responsibility to assign credits to this course, via SONA.

Alternative to Research Participation: Research Reports. You may also learn about research by reading journal articles that discuss a research project. The intent here is similar to the experiment participation option, with the exception that you will identify a paper from an approved journal in psychology and provide a brief summary of the paper (500 words, about 2 pages). Be very careful in following rules for academic integrity. Students caught engaging in plagiarizing materials will be automatically referred to the Dean of Students (see below). Also note that simply handing in a 500 word summary is not a guarantee of credit. The summary must be acceptable to the instructor, basically indicating that you actually did read and understand the article, especially with regards to the experimental aims, methods, and outcomes. Research reports are turned in on paper to the instructor, and each report earns the equivalent of one hour of experiment participation. Note: Any assigned readings for the class may not be used for these research reports. Also note: You may mix the two methods to earn up to a total of 3 extra credit points.

Midterms and Final Exam

There will be two midterms and one final exam, intended to assess learning on mostly (but not exclusively) factual information. The midterms will be held during a class period, and the final exam will be in the regularly scheduled Final Exam time period, as determined by the Registrar. Exams may not be rescheduled.

The material covered in the exams may include any of the required reading (textbook and additional readings), in addition to anything presented or discussed in class. Note that just because it is not covered in class does not mean it will not be on a midterm or the final! Note that in general, the first (Midterm 1) exam will cover in detail the material from the first third of the semester; the second exam (Midterm 2) will cover in detail the material mostly from the second third of the semester, but may also cover material from the first third of the semester as well; and the third (Final) exam will cover in detail the material from the final third of the semester (like a third midterm exam), and ALSO some material from the entire semester; the intent of this last part of teh final exam is to be integrative and allow for questions that compare across sensory systems, or integrate material from different parts of the semester.

Exams may include a mixture of multiple choice and short-answer questions.

Lab Course for 4041

PSYC 4041 has a lab course associated with it. The lab will meet (VIRTUALLY, via MS Teams, for Spring 2021) once each week, for a ~3-hour session. During the lab, you will discuss extra readings, experience demos, conduct research, and visit labs to participate in real research projects in the field of sensation and perception. Participation will count for a major portion of the lab grade. There may also be lab reports, summaries of research papers, and a final research proposal required.

The lab course will have a grade out of 100 points, but that will be multiplied by 25%. The grade for the lecture portion of the course will be converted to a score out of 75 points, and added to the lab score. That sum will be the final grade for students in 4041.

Final Paper (Research Proposal) for Students in PSYC 6014 (Grad Students) and PSYC 4041 (Lab Section):

All students (registered for PSYC 4041 or PSYC 6014) will complete a final paper that must be a research proposal that fits within the themes listed below. The Research Proposal should clearly identify an area related to the science of sensation and perception (and within the theme), indicate a topic worthy of experimental investigation, provide sufficient but concise background information to frame the problem, propose an experiment that could be conducted to study the problem, pose hypotheses, and then discuss what you might conclude from the various potential outcomes. The page limit is 15 pages (in APA format, as described below), not including the cover page and references. Hopefully you will be able to find an area of your own research or subject area that connects with sensation and perception and relates to the themes, so this exercise can have added relevance to your studies.

You can download a more detailed description of the assignment, including what to include, and the rubric that will be used to grade the paper, in the Files section of Canvas: Final Paper Details sub-directory

Students in PSYC 4041 will be shepherded through the proposal/paper writing process in the LAB section. This will include proposal topics, outlines, interim drafts, peer reviews, etc.

Students in PSYC 6014 will not have this level of shepherding, since it is expected that graduate students are already able to write research proposals. However, the Task stand ready to assist and advise any grad students who may need it! An optional one- or two-paragraph outline may be handed in for feedback no later than three weeks before the due date. This outline will not be graded but it will, however, elicit useful feedback, which in turn is highly likely to help you with your final proposal.

Themes for research proposals: The research proposals need to be within the domain of sensation and perception, and also relate to one or more of the following themes:
(1) perception and aging--How perception changes with age, including multiple perceptual systems. For example, what happens when a person who already has vision loss ages and begins to lose their hearing as well...?
(2) perception on the go--driving, cycling, in-vehicle displays, infotainment, motion sickness, mobile phone displays, sports (viewing or participating), etc.;
(3) perception and technology--how does some aspect of sensation or perception intersect with some aspect of technology use?
(4) atypical perception--sensory or perceptual disabilities; perception in unusual circumstances; persons with unique abilities, etc.

Note on APA format: This is a psychology course, and papers in psychology are nearly always written according to the American Psychological Association (APA) Style guidelines. It is assumed that your paper will comply with the APA style, so you will not earn points for getting it right. However, while we will not be specifically checking for picky details, you can lose points if your paper deviates too far from the guidelines. If APA Style is new to you, consider leaving extra time for getting up to speed with it, and for formatting your paper, references, etc.

The APA has a printed book, and also a whole Web site to explain APA Style at They also have a free online tutorial, in addition to the printed book. You can consult the web, borrow the book, or buy it at the APA site or other online retailers. Here is another Web site on APA style from Purdue University.

Note on sources and citing: The key product or "deliverable" in an essay or paper or term paper in this class is your own opinions and views and conclusions and thoughts. These should be arrived at after careful reading of other works, the views of other people, and a range of sources...and then formulating your own views that may or may not agree with some or all of those ofther sources. For historical facts and methodological details, it is often quite straightforward to report what are considered "the facts". Appropriate paraphrasing, integration of multiple sources, and citations of sources are still required. However, on other parts of the paper, it can often be a challenge to get the right balance between restating other people's views and synthesizing them into your own opinions. This is a skill, and is one of the reasons we assign this paper in a Psychology class. However, please note that the highest standards for ethics and integrity will be upheld in this class, including issues of plagiarism and failure to cite other authors when appropriate. Suspected violations will be reported. See the supplemental reading on Plagiarism (from Prof. Zenzi Griffin's Research Methods class) for more thoughts on this. (Download PDF)

Also note that while they may be very useful starting points, Wikipedia and other similar anonymous encyclopedia-style sources (online or not) may not be cited. You must use, refer to, and appropriately cite primary sources. See the supplemental reading entitled, "Why you can't cite Wikipedia in my class" by Neil L. Waters, for more thoughts on this. (Download PDF)

Respect and Consideration

Please, above all, be respectful and considerate of others in the class. It should go without saying, but this includes showing up on time for classes, meetings, exams, etc. Please turn your cell phone or any other alarms and ringers off while you are in class. If you disturb the class, including incoming phone calls and messages, you may be asked to leave. In the remote/online portions of the class, be sure to turn ON your camera (this is required), and MUTE your microphone when not speaking.

Additional Required Reading

Additional readings, typically research articles and book chapters, will be required. Those readings will be made available for download. Consult the Extra Readings page on Canvas, as well as the Extra Readings sub-directory in the Files section of Canvas for this course. Students will be responsible for obtaining and reading all materials before the class in which they are to be discussed.