Interesting Class: Sensation and Perception
Oakland University has adapted to students’ needs, expanding intellectual horizons to offer nontraditional courses that stretch beyond core subjects and allow students to explore other areas of interest. OU News Bureau reporter Audrey Ryskamp caught up with Professor Dean Purcell to learn about a class called Sensation & Perception (PSY 311).
What department is the class in?
Psychology, but it is important to note that it is on the biological side of psychology.
Would you consider it a popular class?
Why are we offering this class?
It is one of the three or so classes in experimental psychology that every psych department must have to consider itself to be an up-to-date modern department. Graduate schools of experimental psychology look closely at the grades in Sensation & Perception because they know that it is a difficult course.
How hard would you say the class is?
It is one of the most difficult upper division courses in psychology. This is because it covers the physiology of the sensory systems, the psycho physics of the sensory systems as well as rather complicated theoretical perspectives on those sensory systems.
How do you personally teach the class?
Lecture and demonstrations.
How did Oakland come up with the idea to have this class?
It is one of the must-have experimental psychology courses.
How many times is the class offered?
Once per year.
How long has it been offered at Oakland?
At least 40 years.
Personally, how does it affect students?
Nausea to exultation.
What majors do you see taking this class?
Psychology and pre-med majors.
What do you hope students gain out of this course?
An advanced understanding of the five sensory modalities.
Do you think it helps students in the long run by taking this class?
This is a basic science course and it is not intended to help anyone do anything except understand how their senses allow them to navigate though their environment. However, if they go to graduate school it is excellent preparation for the rigors they will encounter there.
Senior Thomas Butler, a psychology major, took the Sensory & Perception class. Here’s what he said:
What do you think is the most important thing you got out of the class?
It’s actually quite difficult to narrow it down to one thing, because the class is extremely relevant. If I did, however, have to choose one topic that has stuck with me, it would be that what we perceive is not always what is actually happening. Our body has a tremendous ability to filter sensory input, so we aren’t always getting the full message that our environment is sending, and in fact, we sometimes get a message that is the complete opposite. I think this has very obvious practical implications for life — we need to be careful about what information we act on — but personally, I feel that it can also be extrapolated into a philosophical meaning … we don’t always have the whole picture. Both of these ideas can be very influential in the way one lives their life.
Why should students take this class?
I can’t narrow this down to one concrete reason either, but I would say students should take this class because of the numerous practical applications it provides. We constantly use our senses to live the lives we live and often, we are not even conscious of the very complex processes that occur to make this happen. Learning of these processes in and of themselves is fascinating, and alone, they would make the class worth a student’s time. But the class goes farther. Knowing of the senses and their properties can help in living one’s everyday life. Knowing things such as how long it takes one’s eyes to adjust to the dark can have very important everyday applications, while knowing that emotional and physical pain activate some of the same areas in the brain can have very important clinical applications.Tweet
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