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Unit of study_

PSYC3013: Perceptual Systems

Semester 2, 2020 [Normal day] - Camperdown/Darlington, Sydney

Perception poses many challenges: how do we see colour and movement? How do we perceive surfaces and materials? How does combining information from multiple senses improve our perception? This unit draws on behavioural and neurophysiological perspectives to deepen understanding of current research topics in perception. The emphasis is on how visual information is processed to accomplish functions such as perceiving a single edge, extracting the contours that form a face, or the spatial relations needed to call offside on the sports field. Students also gain conceptual tools for evaluating the empirical and theoretical worth of recent research in perception. During the tutorial component of the course students will develop a practical experiment in which they formulate and test a hypothesis. In this way students gain important research experience that gives them valuable insight into the scientific process as it exists both in professional work and in the empirical research project required for Honours.

Unit details and rules

Unit code PSYC3013
Academic unit Psychology Academic Operations
Credit points 6
(PSYC2010 or PSYC2910 or PSYC2011 or PSYC2911 or PSYC2016) and PSYC2012
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator David Alais,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Final exam (Take-home short release) Type D final exam Final exam
Short answer questions
50% Formal exam period 3 hours
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Assignment Essay
Written assignment
25% Week 09
Due date: 30 Oct 2020 at 20:00
2000 words
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO5 LO6
Presentation group assignment Group presentation
Oral presentation
10% Week 10 15 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO4 LO5 LO6 LO7
Tutorial quiz Tutorial quiz
15% Week 11 45 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO4 LO3 LO2
group assignment = group assignment ?
Type D final exam = Type D final exam ?

Assessment summary

  • Group report: In groups, students will design an experiment related to the retinal blind spot. Groups will run the experiment, collect data, analyse the data, and write it up in a research report. Tutorial 5 (week 6) is dedicated to discussing plans and experimental designs with tutors who will provide guidance and feedback.
  • Group presentation: In groups, students will give a presentation on a perceptual concept that they will be given several weeks in advance. The presentation will need to include accompanying slides.
  • Tutorial quiz: The quiz will assess the content from tutorials 1 to 8. 
  • Attendance and participation: Students must attend and participate in tutorials 1 to 8.

Detailed information for each assessment can be found on Canvas.

Assessment criteria

The University awards common result grades, set out in the Coursework Policy 2014 (Schedule 1).

As a general guide, a high distinction indicates work of an exceptional standard, a distinction a very high standard, a credit a good standard, and a pass an acceptable standard.

For more information see

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Week 01 Introduction to perception; The retina & blind spot Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO4
The levels and problems of perception Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Diffuse surface reflectance:  Lightness Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 02 Receptive fields Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
Diffuse reflectance: Shading and shape Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Shading, shape, and material Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 03 Motion Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
Specular reflectance: gloss and sheen Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Specular reflectance and Shape Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 04 Signal detection theory Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO6
Translucency and transparency Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
The retina and filling-in of blindspots Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 05 -- No tutorial this week -- Tutorial (2 hr)  
Signal detection theory Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Spatial resolution of vision and attention Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 06 Touch & proprioception Tutorial (2 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
Spatial resolution of vision and attention (II) Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Temporal resolution of vision and attention Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 07 Applied vision Tutorial (2 hr) LO7
Temporal resolution of vision and attention (II) Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Touch Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 08 Audition & multisensory Tutorial (2 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Touch (II) Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Introduction to multisensory perception Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 09 -- No tutorial this week -- (Essay due) Tutorial (2 hr)  
Combing the senses: spatial and temporal rules in midbrain Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO3
Multisensory cortex Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO3
Week 10 Group presentations Tutorial (2 hr) LO3 LO5 LO6
Models of sensory integration Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Sensory integration from synchrony Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 11 -- No tutorial this week -- Online tutorial quiz Tutorial (2 hr) LO1
Temporal recalibration Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Resolving visual ambiguity with sound and touch Lecture (1 hr) LO2 LO3
Week 12 -- No tutorial this week -- Tutorial (2 hr)  
Synesthesia: cross-wired senses` Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Applied vision Lecture (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 6 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 120-150 hours of student effort in total.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. By the end of this course you will have a deep understanding of various areas of visual perception and a familiarity with auditory and tactile perception, too.
  • LO2. You will gain an understanding of the various research methods used in perceptual research and an understanding of the computational and neurophysiological underpinnings of perceptual processes.
  • LO3. You will gain an understanding of perceptual science, its methods, and how to present it to others.
  • LO4. (i) Knowledge of several of the perceptual problems the brain must solve (such as combining information from distinct senses) (ii) Appreciation of common processing principles for how the brain solves perceptual problems (such as adaptation) (iii) Conceptual understanding of the limits on human perception and how they relate to the underlying mechanisms (such as acuity) (iv) Understanding of specific perceptual phenomena and how they arise as a consequence of processing architecture, especially in vision and audition (v) Basic knowledge of methods and measures commonly used in perception research (vi) Ability to understand and evaluate empirical studies in perception
  • LO5. (i) To develop an understanding of the major methods of perceptual research (ii) Critically assess research findings and related theories in these areas (iii) Design and conduct basic studies to address perceptual questions: frame research questions; undertake literature searches; critically analyse theoretical and empirical studies; formulate testable hypotheses; operationalise variables; choose an appropriate methodology; make valid and reliable measurements; analyse data and interpret results; and write research reports.
  • LO6. (i) Demonstrate an attitude of critical thinking that includes persistence, open---mindedness, and intellectual engagement. (ii) Evaluate evidence & information; differentiate empirical evidence from speculation. (iii) Think about how perception might be achieved mechanistically (iv) Evaluate issues using different theoretical and methodological approaches. (v) Use reasoning and evidence to recognise, develop, defend, and criticise arguments.
  • LO7. (i) Develop an awareness of the applications of the theories and findings in the area. (ii) Apply psychological concepts, theories, and research findings to problems in everyday life and in society. (iii) Understand major areas of applied Perceptual Psychology.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

We've made changes in response to UOS survey; 1) All lectures finish with summary point & learning outcomes. 2) We've expedited marking of some elements of the course assessment.

Work, health and safety

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.

General Laboratory Safety Rules

  • No eating or drinking is allowed in any laboratory under any circumstances 

  • A laboratory coat and closed-toe shoes are mandatory 

  • Follow safety instructions in your manual and posted in laboratories 

  • In case of fire, follow instructions posted outside the laboratory door 

  • First aid kits, eye wash and fire extinguishers are located in or immediately outside each laboratory 

  • As a precautionary measure, it is recommended that you have a current tetanus immunisation. This can be obtained from University Health Service:


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