Sensation and Perception

Perceptual Organization

How long is a piece of string? It’s as long as it makes the object appear big

How long is a piece of string? We all know this proverbial and largely rhetorical question. We also probably assume that it has no right answer—indeed, that’s the point of this rhetorical question in the first place, namely to indicate that the issue under consideration does not have a meaningful answer. Enter the venerable BBC. […]

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Looking at Toto or Kansas: The Tyranny of Film versus Top-Down Cognition

What are your favorite, best-ever movie quotes? Is it “I’ll have what she’s having”? Or “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore”? What about “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”? If you are unsure, here is a list of the best 100 movie quotes of all time according to Hollywood. But […]

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Bob better had a round face and Kirk a square jaw: People are liked better if their names go with their faces

What does Bob look like? … Bob who? … No, just Bob, any Bob. And while you are at it, what does Kirk look like? At first glance those questions appear absurd. How could anyone infer an unknown person’s looks from their name? Why would the average Bob look any different from the average Kirk? […]

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From scatter (plot) to statistical perception: you can see a lot by looking

Yogi Berra once famously said that “You can observe a lot by watching”. Yogi Berra observed and said a lot of things, but this line has a lot going for it. The idea that information can be gathered by “just looking” entered statistics many decades ago. For example, John Tukey, one of the 20th century’s […]

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2 eyes, 4 targets, and 8 moving disks: Lagging gazes in object tracking

We keep track of multiple objects every day. When we drive, we need to keep track of the cyclist near the curb, the dump truck bearing down on us from behind, and the lost tourist in front of us who is signaling turns at random. When we are on the beach on a family outing, […]

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