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AP Psych



Unit 3

3.0 Unit 3 Overview: Sensation and Perception

2 min readaugust 5, 2020


Dalia Savy

From the College Board

👀 Developing Understanding of this Unit

According to College Board, "Psychologists study sensation and perception to explain how and why externally gathered sensations and perceptions impact behaviors and mental processes 🧠 Using input from several anatomical structures, the sensations we perceive process and interpret information about the environment 🌳 around us and our place within it.
This results in perceptions that influence how we think and behave. In this way, sensation and perception provide a bridge between the biological and cognitive perspectives, offering aspects of both for explaining how we think and behave.

🔎 Guiding Questions

  • How do we process the information we receive from our environments?
  • How does our interpretation of the information we receive from the environment influence our behaviors and mental processes?

Contextualizing the Unit

This unit covers what psychologists have learned about how we perceive the world around us. It goes in-depth about your 5 senses and what they tell you about your surroundings. Specifically, the field of psychophysics is described in this chapter—that's the study of the difference between the physical characteristics of our surroundings and our psychological interpretation of them. About 6-8% of the exam is about sensation and perception.

Key Facts

🤓 Psychologists to Know

Gustav Fechner

Gustav Fechner studied our awareness of faint stimuli, such as feeling one drop of water fall onto our face, and derived the term absolute threshold


David Hubel + Torsten Wiesel

Contributing to this unit, these two neurophysiologists studied the visual system and found feature detectors in the occipital lobe’s visual cortex. They won a Nobel Prize together for their discovery of these cells.


Ernst Weber

Ernst Weber studied our difference threshold and is known for Weber’s Law.


📝 Vocabulary

SensationBottom-up ProcessingTop-down ProcessingPerception
GestaltSensory TransductionAbsolute ThresholdSubliminal
Signal Detection TheoryDifference ThresholdWeber's LawSensory Adaptation
Perceptual SetSchemasContext EffectsSelective Attention
Cocktail Party EffectInattentional BlindnessChange BlindnessFigure-Ground Relationship
Depth PerceptionMonocular CuesBinocular CuesRetinal Disparity
Perceptual ConstancyMcGurk EffectWavelengthHue
ConesFeature DetectorsOptic NerveYoung-Helmholtz Trichromatic Theory
Opponent Process TheoryAuditionPinnaEardrum
CochleaBasilar MembraneSemicircular canalsVestibular Sacs
Sensorineural Hearing LossConduction Hearing LossPlace TheoryFrequency Theory
GustationOlfactionSomatosensationGate-Control Theory
Vestibular SenseKinesthesisProprioceptionSensory Interaction


Image Courtesy of Live Science

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