Dr. F.L. Bedford, Univ. of Arizona, Psych 330, Perceptual Learning and Adaptation. Sept. 2007, bedford@u.arizona.edu

Course Syllabus

Perceptual Learning and adaptation

Have you ever thought about how toys, tools, sports equipment, and even cars and cell phones feel like they become part of your body? Your body image is not fixed but changes with experience.

You play Marco Polo and easily find your friends without peeking. Yet as a child grows, this auditory system has to change too or you'd never get it right.

Do you take what you see for granted? Think you see everything there is to see? Assume your neighbor sees exactly what you do? Not so. Experience changes what you see.

We will look at all sorts of ways that experience affects perception through life. Perception refers to the way you get information about the world through your eyes, ears, fingertips and other sense organs. Think about how difficult a time Helen Keller must have had without vision or hearing. The sense organs are your gateway to the world; without them, you'd be trapped in your own head with nothing but your own thoughts and no new information to drive those thoughts. Could a person even continue to exist if all sensory organs were lost? Yet perception is not as simple as just being fortunate enough to not be blind or deaf. It is being continuously modified by experience, even in fully-grown adults. This course will examine the relation between learning and perception.

Prerequisites: 1) Introductory Psychology (Psych 101, or the Psychology section of Indv. 101). It is recommended that one of these course be taken at the U of A. If you're not sure your intro course was optimal, try reading the text Psychology by Henry Gleitman.

2) Either Psychological Methods (Psych. 290a) or at least one course in the Cognitive and Neural Systems (CNS, formally known as CEM) sub-area of our Psychology curriculum (e.g. cognitive, memory, devo., perception, problem solving...)

3) Psychology Major. Students should already be a major in Psychology or planning to declare their major as Psychology shortly. Psychology minors or other students need to see the instructor for permission.

This course is designed with the junior Psychology major in mind, but may be taken by sophomores and seniors. Motivated freshman can enroll with permission of instructor.

Requirements and grading:

60% of grade: Two take-home exams. You will be given 1 week to complete each exam. The exam questions cover both classes and readings. The exams are of the sort that require a fair amount of thought rather than just reciting back facts you have heard. They are also all essay questions - answers are about 1 to 2 pages per question with about 7 questions. Exams are due in class on:

1) Thursday, October 18, 2007 (30% of grade)

2) Tuesday, December 4, 2007 (30% of grade)

40% of grade: In-class projects and participation. These include: attendance (obviously), collaborating with a small team of others in class to solve problems and submitting written solutions as a group at the end of the project, oral presentations on readings, asking and answering questions in class, discussing readings in class, designing experiments, participating in experiments during class, analyzing data, web searching, and other active activities that require thought and participation.

As you can see, activities and participation make up a large part of your grade. If you prefer "passive learning" where you like to silently listen to an hour lecture and you don't do readings until the night before an exam, then this is not the right course for you.

Extra credit and make-up assignments will also be available. They including short oral presentations on journal articles, analysis of class-collected data, and other one-of-a- kind projects. If you miss a class with a group project, you'll need to do one of the special assignments to replace the one you missed. For instance, one assignment that is available for either extra credit or make-up work is appropriate if you don't like to fly in airplanes. The assignment involves taking a short web course on flying (www.fearofflyinghelp.com), writing up it's effects on you and speculating on the relation to perception (up to 2 people can do this assignment).

Critical, deep, and abstract thinking is an important part of the course. Some of the material is difficult, including the readings. Note also that it's good to relate the work we cover to your everyday life. This is encouraged and if I can support that in some way let me know. You'll get more out of the material and it adds another dimension of interest. Life is short and I want to see you think. If I don't get to see you think, it is a waste of precious time for both of us. So show me what you've got. Bring it.