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Art and the Psychology of Perception

Instructor: Fabrizio Zeri [see profile]
Disciplines: Psychology

Most people are not aware how complicated the mechanisms at the base of human perception are. At the same time, perceiving is something that happens almost effortlessly. The course will explore this fascinating process with particular emphasis on visual perception, while the other senses will be discussed in an introductory way. 

The psychology of perception studies the representation of the physical world through the processing of sensory information. Within the brain, the sensory information is organized, interpreted, and consciously experienced allowing it to interact with the environment. The process of perception will be discussed using the particular and privileged view of art because it can offer precious insights about how human beings build a psychological representation of the world. 

The main topics include an introduction to human perception: theories about perception, research methods in perception; the fundamentals of perception, from the receptors to the cortex; perceiving objects—their size, depth, color, and movement; attention and perception; sensory-perceptual development and changes over time.

This class makes use of various art works around the city that play with issues of perception such as the Borromini's Colonnade in the Spada Gallery, Palazzo Barberini, and the Church of S. Luigi dei Francesi, among others.   


  • a midterm exam
  • a research paper (8-10 pages)
  • a final exam