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Seminar to tackle the topic of illusion


13 October 2010
Members of the public are being invited to experience some visual illusions as part of a public lecture entitled ‘The Joy of Perception’ by Professor Robert O’Shea at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus tomorrow, Thursday, October 14 at 5.30pm. The seminar will also be video streamed to the Lismore and Gold Coast campuses.

The seminar, which is the fifth presentation in Southern Cross University’s Professorial Lecture Series, will tackle the latest research and theories on how visual perception works in the brain with the help of demonstrations allowing audience members to test their perception for themselves.

Professor O’Shea said perception was an essential part of what it means to be human.

“In the case of visual perception, the left eye provides vision and the right eye provides vision, but of course you don’t see two of everything when we have both eyes open because processes in the brain put the information together to form our experience of the world,” said Professor O’Shea.

“Perception is the interface between our minds and the real world; everything we experience through our senses is filtered through it.

“As a result, it influences every action we take - and these can be life-and-death decisions. For example, plane crashes have taken place as a result of errors of perception in pilots – one of the most famous examples being JFK Junior who ignored his instruments and trusted his perception which told him he was flying level when in fact he was not.

“My research focuses on how we come to be conscious of things, how that consciousness changes without any change to the original stimulus and why visual illusions take place.

“I will describe how my laboratory research can be applied in real world examples of visual illusions such as sunsets and the difficulty we have in assessing the steepness of slopes.

“Mountains are another example - people climbing to the top of the highest mountain or hill in a range will find when they get there that the nearest mountain next to them will look higher, even though it is not, because their perception is affected by the slope they are standing on.

“We’ll also look at the phenomenon of binocular rivalry, which involves how the brain processes conflicting visual stimuli to each eye, and has been highlighted by some researchers as holding the key to unlocking how consciousness arises in the brain.”

Professor O’Shea said the lecture would show there were lessons to be learned about how we see the world.

“We know there is an emotional connection with visual perception – if you show people a series of pictures and record which ones they like, some very simple preferences emerge,” said Professor O’Shea.

“People like colour, they like natural themes rather than human-made things, they prefer a high view and they prefer views over water.
“Researchers theorise that what resonates with people reflects the element that might make up a good place for a camp or a village, and argue it is built into our genes.

“We have a primitive emotional response to visual stimuli which may have practical applications in treating conditions like depression– I’ll be alerting people to the fact this exists, and giving an insight into how this might affect us in our daily lives.”

The Professorial Lecture ‘The Joy of Perception’ will be held tomorrow, Thursday, October 14 at 5.30pm in room MLG13 at Southern Cross University’s Coffs Harbour campus. It will be video-linked to room R106 in Lismore and room A316 at the Gold Coast campus where it will begin at 4.30pm Qld time.

Please RSVP to Donna McIntyre on 02 6620 3503 or [email protected]

Photo: Professor Robert O'Shea (high resolution image available on request)

Media contact: Zuleika Henderson, media officer, Southern Cross University Gold Coast and Tweed Heads: 07 5506 9385 or 0408 644533.