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Sensation & Perception, 3rd ed.

Rabin, Jeff C.

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doi: 10.1097/OPX.0b013e3182773800
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In the preface to Sensation & Perception (Third Edition), the authors note that although fully capable of authoritative yet soporific compilation of facts, their goal was to spread their enthusiasm for sensation and perception by teaching the reader “enough to want to know more.” This text exceeds that goal, exemplified in the words of Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, it “makes hungry most where it most satisfies,” in 15 full-color chapters on vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste, as well as attention, spatial orientation, music, and speech perception. Armed with comprehension and fueled by insight, the matriculated reader is compelled to seek more.

The Introduction describes questions posed to elucidate sensation and perception and methods used to answer these questions: measurement of threshold (Weber/Fechner laws; absolute/difference thresholds; methods of adjustment, limits, constant stimuli), scaling (magnitude estimation/Stevens power law; cross-modality matching), signal detection theory, Fourier analysis, and neuroimaging (structural: computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging; functional: functional magnetic resonance imaging, positron emission tomography), logically preceded by a historically based neuroanatomical review (cranial nerves, cortex, action and gross potentials).

Chapters 2 to 8 cover vision and attention, with chapter 2, The First Steps in Vision: From Light to Neural Signals, reviewing physics of light (waves, photons, transmission, scatter, reflectance) then anatomy and optics of the eye, ametropia, basic retinal anatomy, receptive fields, duplicity, dark adaptation, lateral inhibition, and ganglion cell bases for parallel pathways. Color figures and clinical examples (macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa) enhance the text. Chapter 3, Spatial Vision: From Spots to Stripes, reviews serial and parallel processing of pattern detection tempered by clinical applications. Visual acuity, contrast sensitivity, sine-waves/Fourier, and pattern adaptation are covered efficiently with examples of normal and abnormal development (amblyopia). Chapter 4, Perceiving and Recognizing Objects, details extrastriate cortex in visual perception, with anatomically/functionally distinct areas each retinotopically mapped. The temporal what pathway in object recognition, figure-ground, Gestalt grouping, occlusion, perceptual ambiguity/illusory contours, template and structural models of recognition, and face perception and agnosia are covered. Chapter 5, The Perception of Color, is a complete highly readable overview of color vision, including univariance, metamerism, cone-based trichromacy, opponent theory, cortical processing, constancy, color deficiency, and animal color vision. Chapter 6, Space Perception and Binocular Vision, aptly begins with realism, positivism, and Euclidean views, prepping the fortunate reader for a vivid discourse on space perception, complete with monocular depth cues, anatomical, physiological, and functional application of stereopsis, binocular rivalry and suppression, and development of normal and abnormal binocular vision. Ample coverage of horopter, Panum area, disparity, fusion, stereoblindness, and illusions makes this chapter an essential reading for scientists and clinicians alike. Chapter 7, Attention and Scene Perception, exploits research to delineate basics of attention (selection, cueing, spotlight, serial, parallel and guided search, binding, feature integration), physiology, and attention disorders (neglect, extinction, Balint syndrome). Scene perception is attributed to inferences from ensemble statistics with selective focus on features—highly efficacious save for rare constraints such as change blindness. Last but not the least, chapter 8 describes the basics of Motion Perception (real vs apparent, local vs global/second-order motion, aftereffects, interocular transfer, biological motion, optic flow) with lower/higher order neurophysiological processing. An overview of eye movements, development of motion perception, and clinical examples complete this fine chapter.

Hearing is covered superbly in chapter 9, Hearing: Physiology and Psychoacoustics, chapter 10, Hearing in the Environment, and chapter 11, Music and Speech Perception. The physics of sound, functional anatomy/physiology of audition, as well as normal/abnormal hearing are described in vibrant illustrative terms. The importance of interaural time and intensity differences for localization are emphasized with source segregation (spatial, spectral, temporal; grouping by timbre/onset; familiarity), continuity, and restoration. Included are critical dimensions of music (pitch, learned melodies, rhythm), speech production (phonation, respiration, articulation), speech perception, and neural coding.

Exquisite figures in chapter 12, Spatial Orientation and the Vestibular System, identify spatial orientation senses (angular/linear motion, tilt) as well as functional anatomy of the vestibular system. Coupling of vestibular and visual input to specify spatial orientation are described with clinical applications. The diverse sense of Touch is covered brilliantly in chapter 13 (physiology, pain, touch sensitivity/acuity, haptic perception) with compelling applications such as virtual surgical training. Physiology and genetics of the chemical senses of Olfaction (chapter 14) and Taste (chapter 15) are elucidated with wonderful graphics and provocative insight (eg, odor and emotion, paucity of olfactory imagery, genes and supertasters).

Sensation & Perception includes numerous aids for students and instructors alike. Each chapter concludes with an 8 to 16 paragraph summary, and the companion Web site ( includes chapter overviews, interactive activities, web essays, flash cards, and study questions. Lectures, figures, outlines, and test items are available to instructors.

Although billed as an undergraduate text, Sensation & Perception remains an authoritative timely text for all, highly appropriate in whole or part for psychology, neuroscience, vision science, optometry, ophthalmology, and audiology.

Jeff C. Rabin

San Antonio, Texas

© 2012 American Academy of Optometry