Breaking down the Senses Part I: VISUAL PERCEPTION

Check out this Museum devoted to the 5 Senses


How does our VISUAL PERCEPTION help and hinder our pursuit of knowledge?

Be prepared to TWEET throughout the videos we watch today- the Tweet stream will be archived. Be professional and thoughtful. #tokkailua

(Interview related to above video)

BBC Science of Attraction

Related to the HALO EFFECT VIDEO (80’s dating vids- funny!)


***We’ll be using THIS GOOGLE SLIDESHOW for an activity

Here’s a profile pic compilation in video form:

How are our Senses MANIPULATED by the MEDIA?


Symbolic Codes: Color, Objects, Animals

Written Codes: You & Only You; Buzzwords, Catch Phrases

Technical Codes Jr.: Camera Angles, Framing, Lighting

 TASK: For this I’d like you to try to find Symbolic Codes, Written Codes, and Tech Codes Jr. – you might even create your own (i.e. camera angles). Post to our G+ with the tag #codes

TED ED LESSON (created by Mrs. B)

***TASK: After watching the video, you can go through the “Think” questions as a group but you will need to choose 1 of the “Dig Deeper” Questions to respond to on your blog.



How can we use AUGMENTED REALITY APPS to enhance our visual sense perception?

Augmented Reality, or AR is fast becoming integrated into our lives. One of my favorite apps is Acrossair, which allows you to find your car, get additional info about a particular place, AND (my favorite) see what people near you have recently tweeted.


Here are 40 more (often free) AR apps to check out (some are games!)

Some really cool articles in Mashable

Article: 5 Reasons to Get Excited about AR in 2013

Did you always want to graffiti something and not get in trouble Try STREET TAG (see video)

I recently purchased SketchWiz, which allows you to create different types of sketchy photos or film from what your camera sees.


What do you think about this?


Optical Illusions May Help Arthritis

Are V-shaped Facial Features Threatening?

Drug Hallucinations Look Real in the Brain

4D Artwork Challenges Our Brain (great images!)

Visual Media: It’s All about the Images (Infographic)

Women Recognize Living Things Better Than Guys



The Art of the Profile Picture

What your Profile Pic Says about You

Now, Click through this slideshow on Selfies and be sure to focus on slide #18, 22, 23, 32, 37, 43, 44, 46, 51

Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 8.29.17 AM

But…Do Selfies Make us better People?

The Science Behind Why we take Selfies

“This lack of visual knowledge about our own faces means we have a very inaccurate representation of what our own faces look like at any given time. For example, it has been demonstrated that when people are shown an image of themselves and asked to match it they are unable to accurately produce the same facial expression without being able to see themselves…This might in part explain our obsession with selfies. For the first time we are able to take and retake pictures of ourselves until we can produce an image that come closer to matching our perception of what we think we look like

The Art of the Selfie

“The selfie, in other words, is starting to serve as a portrait of the culture at large, a Rorschach test for a collective anxiety about how rapid technological change and social media are shaping society, providing tools that allow us to become Neros fiddling while ice caps melt and genocides rage.”


2013 The Year of the Selfie – really, a dramatic shift in the way we communicate as a species

“In general, we’re seeing images move from being a source of pure documentation to being a mechanism of communication,”

And…Welcome to the first “Instagram Hotel”...Media philosopher Marshall McLuhan once said “We shape our tools and then our tools shape us”





Remember that video we saw from MIT Media Lab where the tagcloud of pertinent words appeared circling on the boy’s chest as he is met by his friend? Keep that in mind, and create an augmented image of yourself OR yourself with friends. Annotate different areas with #metadata – things about you that are not obvious when looking at you..a little like this:

Hipster Infographic 18

2. SELFIE VLOGLLAGE (Vlog + Collage) 

A. Look through your selfies (you probably have at least 3…if not, take some!). Choose at least 3 and try to analyse them, looking for the “story” behind them. Use the points made in the slideshow above and all the articles regarding selfies to help you deconstruct this visual communication.

B. Make a short (2-5 min) vlog commentary on your analysis of your particular selfies AND with the phenomenon in general, referring to AT LEAST 2 of the resources above (you can always find more as well).

C. Create a montage/ collage with the stills and the images. I use the app PicPlayPost, but it is $1.99 so you can get creative with other free ways to do this (even a simple movie with voiceover would be fine)



Sense Perception as a WOK: Intro

(as adapted from Richard van de Lagemaat, Theory of Knowledge for the IB Diploma)

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see” – Henry David Thoreau

“Two-thirds of what we see is behind our eyes” – Chinese proverb

“Things do not seem the same to those who love and those who hate, nor to those who are angry and those who are calm” – Aristotle

“You can’t depend on eyes when your imagination is out of focus” – Mark Twain

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is – infinite” – William Blake


THE ARTS– To what extent to the arts help us to see the world with new eyes?

ETHICS – Do “good” people see the world differently from “bad” people? 

HISTORY – Should we trust eye-witness accounts?

HUMAN SCIENCES– How does the act of observation influence what is observed?

EMOTION – How does your mood affect your perception of things?

NATURAL SCIENCES– How far do expectations influence observations?

LANGUAGE– How does the way we describe something affect the way we see it?

REASON – Which is a more reliable source of knowledge – perception or reason?

What is Perception?

Perception = the awareness of things through our 5 senses, or the “gates and windows” of the mind, the channels of communication between ourselves and the outside world.

5 senses = sight, sound, touch, taste, smell

If you had to sacrifice ONE of your senses, which would you be most willing to lose and which least willing to lose? ( this was our #tokkailuaQ 16)

MOST people answer that they’d least be willing to lose sight, and most willing to lose smell. Smell is sometimes referred to as the “mute sense”. Think about it – we have thousands of terms for colors but not much other than “smells good/bad”. In reality, we can distinguish more than 10,000 distinct odours. Moreover, smells can trigger powerful emotional responses in the brain, as this sense has a more direct route than then other four.


What is Empiricism?

Empiricism is a major school of philosophy that states ALL knowledge is ultimately based on perceptual experience, and that, in essence, one cannot be born with knowledge or obtain it without perceiving it. Some famous empiricists are David Hume, George Berkeley (UC Berkeley named after him), John Locke, and to some extent, Leonardo da Vinci, who said “All our knowledge has its roots in our perceptions”

Caution- some adult language in the above vids!

What is Common-Sense Realism?

This suggests that perception is passive and straightforward – that our senses are more or less reliable and give us an accurate picture of the world…HOWEVER, we all know that our senses can fool us sometimes, and that our experience of the world is affected by our unique sense organs and minds as well.

What are the 2 Main Factors in Perception?

Sensation– which is provided by the world

Interpretation – which is provided by our minds

***First have fun with the BBC challenge

VISUAL ILLUSIONS can illustrate how these 2 factors come into play. Keep in mind the following:

CONTEXT: (title is linked for more) the way we see something depends partly on the context in which we see it. For example, we understand perspective so seeing a larger figure in the foreground does not necessarily mean it is in reality larger than the figure in the background, which is further away.



FIGURE AND GROUND: (title is linked for more) When we look at something we tend to highlight  certain aspects of what we see (“figure”) and treat other parts as background (“ground”)


VISUAL GROUPING: We have a tendency to look for meaning in what we see and group our perceptual understanding into shapes and patterns. Even with little sensory information, we can construct meaning out of an object by “filling in” the gaps. This is also called GESTALT (geh-shtalt), a (German) psychology term meaning “unified whole”.

Click HERE to see how Gestalt principles are used in logo design.



How long did it take you to figure out what is in the image above?

Links to Illusions

Collection of Categorized Illusions

Spanish Castle Illusion

Dragon Illusion (with video)

The Stroop Effect

94 Optical Illusions

Photographic Illusions




Why is it so hard to proof-read a paper for typos? Our expectations definitely play a huge role in how we see things. 


Our mind (our unconscious) does a great job of making sense of what we take in with our senses. Consider this- your image in the bathroom mirror is actually about half the size of your head- but when you’re checking yourself out you never think you’ve shrunk – it always appears to be the right size.

Unfortunately, some people suffer from a condition called visual agnosia, in which their damaged brain makes them lose the ability to interpret what they see.

Visual Agnosia (story)

Hilary Lawson’s article about her experience (pdf below)

visual agnosia (1)


One reason for being cautious about what are senses tell us is that perception is by nature selective. Our minds have to pick and choose what to notice since there is a constant deluge of sensory information coming at us at all times. Like a figure/ground illusion, certain aspects of all situations “Stand out” and others fade into the background.

What makes things “stand out”? One is INTENSITY- something strong or loud, pungent or colorful, for example. The other is CONTRAST– like that coffee spill on your white tee shirt! Another is MOVEMENT – evolutionary speaking, we need to be startled by movement in order to protect ourselves.

But of course there are other factors that play in – such as personal interest and mood. Photographers are really great at captalizing on what catches their eye as aesthetically pleasing or able to tell a story.

How would a TREE be seen by: a: a logger  b: an environmentalist  c: a biologist  d: a native American ?

When our interests shift, so do our perceptions, which explains the phenomena that pregnant women suddenly notice scores of other pregnant women wherever she goes.

MOOD explains the glass half full/glass half empty differences between optimists and pessimists. When you begin a romantic relationship, you notice everything you have in common; when it dissolves, you point out all the things that made you different and incompatible. The “Fear Factor” greatly alters our perceptions, which is why after telling ghost stories around a camp fire even the rustle of leaves scares the pants off you!

Finally CULTURE can affect our perceptions – how does it affect yours?

It can be said that we often see only what we want to see – how do your beliefs affect the way you see things?

Imagine you’ve witnessed a violent crime and get a brief but clear glimpse of the assailant. What confidence would you have that you could correctly identify one of the following men?


Eye-witness accounts have traditionally been trusted, but recent DNA tests have proved that they are not infallible. The eye is not a camera – everytime we “remember” something, we actually reconstruct it.

Think back to an early childhood memory. Are you sure about the SOURCE of this memory? Do you recall experiencing it, or did your parents tell you so many stories about it you think you remember it?

Even though we might misremember, misinterpret, or fail to notice something, it would be impractical to be overly skeptic about everything we take in through our senses.

How can we effectively distinguish between appearance and reality?

1. Confirmation by another sense – does it look like and apple AND taste like one? Can you see the wall AND bang your head against it?

2. Coherence – does it “fit in” with your overall experience of the world?

3. Independent Testimony – what do other people say? do they “confirm” your perceptions?



Galileo once quipped: “The tickle is not in the feather”. If you burned your hand on the stove, you know enough about biology to agree that the pain is in your hand, not some thing in the stove coils independent of your experience with it. If you drink a soda it tastes sweet – does the sweetness exist in the soda itself, or only in your mouth? Is the “Sweetness” a subjective experience resulting form the interaction of your taste buds and your mouth.

But what about things like colors? Surely snow is white(ish) and grass is green. BUT if we apply the same reasoning as the soda/stove then the green is no more in the grass as the sweetness was in the soda. So….the “green-ness” is merely a result of the ways our eyes are sensitive to light wavelengths and the physical structure of the grass. Does this mean, in effect, the world is colorless?


You’ve probably heard the well-known saying “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one there to hear it does it make a sound?” If you think that the sound of a tree falling is nothing more than the effect of air vibrations on our ears, and if there were no ears in the region, then the tree does NOT make a sound. But can we make a distinction between the kinds of “sound”?

Physical Sound = vibrations in the air caused by things like falling trees

Experienced Sound = the actual crash or whatever we hear when trees hit the ground

Given these definitions, we can say in our puzzle that there IS “Sound #1” but NO “Sound #2”

Does this mean that in the early days of Earth’s formation the planet was silent, or if we removed all ears and other hearing devices from all creatures our planet would again be totally hush? Extending that to color…if no one had eyes or the ability to see would roses not be red and grass not green (at least in the “experiential” sense)?

This reasoning leads us to wonder whether anything can be said to exist independent of our experience of it.


After everyone leaves campus for the day, how do you know the tables/ desks are still in the classroom? It’s like “How do you know the light goes off when you close the fridge door?”

Perhaps tables on behave when someone is watching them, but as soon as no one’s around they dance around and create havoc. Even if you filmed the room you could still ask: “how do you know the images of the obviously static tables stay on the film when you are not watching it?”

Perhaps right now you might be skeptical of philosophers who ponder these seemingly inane questions and are saying to yourself WHO REALLY CARES??!!  Perhaps you are thinking we shouldn’t worry about what tables do on their own time…all that matters is how they act when we’re around.


There are 3 major theories about the relationship between perception and reality:

1. COMMON SENSE REALISM (Slogan: What you see is what is there)

The way we perceive the world basically mirrors the way the world really is. BUT…since we’ve explored how what we perceive is determined (at least in part) by our own unique sense organs, there migth be some good reasons for rejecting this theory

2. SCIENTIFIC REALISM (Slogan: Atoms in the Void!)

The world exists as an independent reality, but is very different from the way we perceive it. Just think about all the electric charges, atoms and other miniscule moving parts that comprise a seemingly static, solid object like a chair. According to this theory, the world is a colorless, soundless, odourless realm of atoms whizzing around in space.

***most scientists are intuitive realists and believe they are making discoveries about an existing independent reality.

3. PHENOMENALISM (Slogan: To be is to be perceived)

This is radical empiricism (all knowledge is based on experience). Phenomenalism says that matter is simply the permanent possibility of sensation, and the world is not independent of our experience of it. I bet you can think of some Hollywood movies that use this philosophy. It emphasizes we see the world from a human perspective and shouldn’t really be philosophizing about the nature of reality!

Some Perception plots in films:

ChinatownDonnie DarkoMementoThe Truman ShowFight ClubInceptionThe MatrixVanilla Sky; Mulholland Drive; Shutter Island; The Sixth SenseEternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindThe Crying Game; The Manchurian Candidate; Pleasantville; The MachinistBrazil

A Sixth Sense?

Here’s an intriguing article about the 5 WEIRDEST “Sixth Senses” Humans have:

The Future: Post-Digital Humans

What happens when the line between the digital and physical worlds becomes blurred? How will our senses be augmented by technology? Can they be replaced by it? What does “The Internet of Things” mean?  What is the future of Interactive Design and User Experience?


Practically speaking, it probably only makes sense (no pun intended) to doubt our senses only if there are good reasons for doing so – after all, evolutionarily speaking they got us this far. And if knowledge is defined as something a bit less than certainty, that works! ***If the perceptual evidence is consistent with other Ways of Knowing, such as Reason and Intuition, then it is probably a reliable source of Knowledge.


Fractally Breathing

Moving Illusions

BellaDonna Effect (with Video)

Escher-esque impossible drawings

Shifting Objects Illusion

Now you see it – now you don’t (with video)

A New Kind of Color Blind (with video)

Checkerboard Illusion and the Munker-White Illusion

Sillhouette Illusion (with video)

TASKS TO DO: (also found on Managebac)

***special note: by Jan 23 you should have posted #2 and #10 to our G+ community with the proper tags. Mrs. B will be absent that day but one student can search the tags and you all can share. Also, be prepared to take your curated article or video (#9) and create a 3-4 slide Google presentation with knowledge questions. You’ll have time to work on them at the beginning of class and then start presenting. All other tasks are due by Jan 29 posted to your blog.

1. READ this entire post thoroughly and EXPLORE all the links (we will go over most in class)

2. CURATE an optical illusion (or more than 1)  you find particularly interesting and post to your blog so we can share them. If you can explain how it works that would be great. **we will be sharing this next class – please ALSO UPLOAD to our G+ community with hashtag #illusion

3. CHOOSE 1 sense (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell). Choose 1 hour of your day and keep track of absolutely EVERYTHING you experience through that sense ONLY and record it on your blog.

4. RESPOND with a paragraph regarding your reading of Hilary Lawson’s story about visual agnosia

5. Which of the 3 “Theories of Reality” do you most adhere to? EXPLAIN.

6. We are all very good at seeing only what we want to see. Can you give some EXAMPLES of the way in which our BELIEFS, CULTURE, or MOOD affects the way we see things?

7. Regarding Patty Maes’ TED talk on technology and a “Sixth Sense”, as well as the “Connecting” documentary film, what IMPLICATIONS do you foresee for such knowledge/ perception enhancers?

8. Find an example of a LOGO or advertisement using the design principles of GESTALT. Identify if it involves SimilarityDissimilarityContinuationClosureProximity, or Figure and Ground.

9. CURATE an article or video regarding ANY of the senses and sense perception. Try to find at least 2 knowledge issues /questions and post all to blog (for example, here is an article discussing eye-tracking patterns for reading)…you can access my Diigo list HERE (***be prepared to eventually share with the class in a 3 slide presentation)

10. TAKE and TWEET a photo of an optical illusion you create yourself (you can do this in groups). Refer to HERE or THIS PINTERST (***please do by next class AND share to G+community with #photollusion)

TED: Design for All 5 Senses

Jinsop Lee tries to find out the answer to “Why is sex so good?” by using his “5 senses Theory”, and why designers should create products that appeal to all 5 senses.


1. Use The 5 senses Theory to create your own “5 senses Graph” for a daily activity you do (like a sport or even a mundane activity). Record your graph and post to your blog.

2. Alone or with a partner, devise an ideal product that maximizes the 5 Senses into the design (like he did at the end). Be sure to draw it and give it a cool name! We will post these to our G+ community under “Digital Artifacts” with the hashtag #sensedesign as well as to your own blog. (feel free to tweet it too).

3. Play “Disruptus” – a new game in divergent thinking that will help us get back into the swing of TOKing and is also quite similar to the Jinsop Lee experiment. (you can even share some of your creations to our G+ Discussion forum)

Here’s an idea Sweden had for its subway- they wanted to get people to exercise more


Check out these AMAZING IDEAS for the common umbrella!