Your senses aren't just a part of you—they define you. Nothing that you experience in your life, from the most important to the most mundane, would be possible without the intricate power of your senses. But how much about them do you really know?
Your ability to sense and perceive the world around you is so richly detailed and accurate as to be miraculous. No other animal, no expertly designed supercomputer—nothing in the entire universe of scientific exploration can even come close to matching the ability of your brain to use information sensed by your eyes, ears, skin, tongue, and nose to produce a rich sensory experience in a matter of milliseconds.
And in recent years, neurobiologists and other scientists have uncovered new insights into how your senses work and all the amazingly complex and fascinating things they can do, whether you're aware of them or not. Knowing how your senses work and the ways they shape how you see, interact with, and understand your life will help you think more critically about everything you sense and perceive, strengthen your appreciation for the everyday marvels of your senses, prepare you to be active consumers of new scientific evidence on how our senses work, and much more.
Discover the secret life of your senses with Understanding the Secrets of Human Perception, an intriguing and unforgettable 24-lecture course delivered by award-winning Professor Peter M. Vishton of The College of William & Mary—a masterful educator who has spent several decades immersed in exploring the frontiers of human perception. With him as your authoritative guide, you'll
- consider each of your senses from a wide range of perspectives,
- explore how your brain processes different sensory information,
- consider how your senses work together and within the real-world context of the environment around you, and
- discover how your senses connect you to the world and to other people.
Discover Why There's More to Your Senses than You Ever Imagined
"Perception feels so easy and functions so automatically that many people assume there must not be much to it," notes Professor Vishton at the start of this course. "Let me assure you that there is." And while this subject is one of great scientific depth, it is made accessible and approachable by Professor Vishton's engaging teaching style and his ability to organize the broad range of information out there into several core areas.
- Hardware of Sensation and Perception: Key to understanding how perception works is knowing details about the biological "hardware" itself. Professor Vishton gives you a thorough tour of information about your eyes, tongue, ears, skin, and other sensory organs; the neurons that connect with them; and the brain systems that make sense of your surroundings.
- Visual Perception: Because the vast majority of perception research has been conducted on the sense of vision and because humans are extensively visual creatures, you spend time on fundamental topics in the domain of visual perception. These topics include how you perceive motion, depth, and color.
- Perceptual Systems and Development: You'll also consider how your perceptual systems develop throughout your life, from infancy to adulthood. Among the subjects you learn about are action control, perception and attention, subliminal perception, and perceptual learning.
- Your Other Senses: Just as important to a well-rounded grasp of sensation and perception are your other, nonvisual modalities of perception. Professor Vishton offers you an expert's look at our latest knowledge about taste and olfaction, hearing, speech and language perception, touch, kinesthetic perception, and even the perception of pain.
- Your Senses in the Real World: Finally, you'll see how everything comes together in a series of lectures devoted to real-world situations and interesting topics involving sensation and perception. Professor Vishton discusses illusions, the relationship between perception and emotions, the possibilities of fixing and replacing damaged sensory systems, and more.
Learn Eye-Opening Truths about How You Perceive Your World
In addition to information about how your senses work and interact, Understanding the Secrets of Human Perception is packed with amazing facts that will open your eyes to just how little you thought you knew about such an essential—almost subconscious—part of your daily life. Professor Vishton's highly enjoyable lectures will amaze you with eye-opening truths about how you sense your world.
- We classically consider humans to have five senses, but in fact, you have many more. Strictly speaking, you have one sense of touch dedicated to pressure, another for heat and cold, another for vibration and texture—and that's just one of your traditional senses!
- People often think that if you close one eye, you'll lose your ability to perceive depth. But because there are other sources of information that influence how you sense depth, you are still able to see and judge distances just fine!
- Your brain can generate flavor preferences based on what your body needs. For example, peanut butter may not smell good to you, but if you are very hungry—particularly if your body has a need for protein and magnesium—peanut butter may suddenly smell fantastic!
There appears to be a neural reality to the expression "it hurts to watch." If you feel strong emotional ties to someone, then when he or she experiences pain, so do you; not just figurative pain but, to some extent, physical pain that can be measured.
And that's only a small sampling of the many insights you'll uncover as you journey deep inside the inner workings of human perception and sensation.
Enjoy Interactive Experiments, Tests, and Demonstrations
Of course, research and experimentation plays an integral part in shaping how we know what we know about human perception. In many of this course's lectures, Professor Vishton—who has explored human perception in research projects supported by the National Science Foundation and other organizations—invites you to participate in simple experiments, tests, and demonstrations while watching or listening that will hammer home your understanding of how your senses operate.
- Stare at footage of a downward-moving waterfall for two minutes in order to see upward drifting motion—even where there is nothing actually moving. Professor Vishton explains what these visual "aftereffects"tell you about motion perception in general.
- Listen to the repetition of a particular syllable with your eyes closed and then again while watching someone mouth a different syllable. When watching the video, your natural lip-reading abilities cause you to perceive a different sound, even though the sound itself never changes.
- Plug your nose and take a bite of an onion to notice its sweetness and juiciness without the sting of its odor. What you perceive as taste is largely your sense of smell.
Combine this interactive way of learning with Professor Vishton's numerous awards and accolades—including The College of William & Mary's Alumni Fellowship Award for excellence in teaching—and you've got a world-class learning experience that will undoubtedly change the way you think about your senses. After you've taken Understanding the Secrets of Human Perception, you won't eat dinner, listen to a conversation, sit in a chair, or pick up an object in the same way again.