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Psych 733 Top-down effects in perception, Spring 2013

We will be meeting on Wednesdays 9:30-12 in Psych 634.
The class is taught by Prof. Gary Lupyan (lab page), (lupyan _at_ wisc dot edu)).

Course Description

This graduate seminar will give students an overview of top-down effects on perception. Among the topics to be discussed will be: modularity of perception, its (im)penetrability by cognitive factors, interactive information processing in perception, and effects of “high-level” factors on “low-level” processes. Although the readings primarily focus on visual perception, I will introduce examples from other modalities such as audition, olfaction, and proprioception during the discussions. The subject matter we will cover is relevant not only for understanding perception, but comprises an ideal test-bed for contrasting fundamentally different ways of understanding the relationship between brain, world, and behavior. You can download the syllabus here


Students are expected to read all the assigned papers for each class. We will set up a rotating schedule for several students to organize a presentation for each lass. Long papers will be presented by several students. I will do the presentation for the first class as a demonstration, but I encourage each presenter to be innovative and entertaining. It may appear that there is a lot of reading. I will give you strategies at the start of the term for how to quickly read these papers. Readings are available for download on the course site. For copyright reasons, they are password-protected. If you do not know the password, contact me by email.


Each student is expected to do all the readings for each week, to participate actively in the discussions, and to write a research paper due March 13th. Many of the readings are filled with jargon and use methods you may not be familiar with. That’s ok. I do not expect you to understand the readings from beginnng to end. What is most important is that you understand the big picture. We’ll sort out the details in class.


  1. Participation: 20%
  2. Presentation and leading discussions: 30%
  3. Research paper (2000-3000 words not including refs.): 50%
Here’s how to get yourself an A:
  1. Question everything and everyone and do it out loud. It doesn’t matter if your question or comment is half-baked. Just say it.
  2. During your presentations, focus on the big picture and don’t sweat the small stuff.
  3. In your paper, try to draw original connections between the different topics we are covering. Many of the authors we will be reading are not aware of each other’s work, so there is plenty of room to draw such new connections.
  4. Clear your paper topic with me by week 6. I am happy to guide you and provide topic suggestions.
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