focus on a few papers
that in your opinion are relevant to the question of how prior
experience/memory affects perception. It doesn’t have to be only color
perception or visual perception, but you should choose papers that you think
have advanced the field. In your essay, you should make clear why and how your chosen papers have
increased our knowledge about these effects.

 

 

 

We know that past experiences
helps shape our present and future, and our memories are key to navigating the
world around us, our cognitive framework is constantly being built upon and
improved and without it to guide us, we would struggle to cope with everyday
life. Helmholtz originally proposed in 1867 that our brains can perceive our
environment as a whole even when we are given ambiguous and incomplete
information all due to our access of prior experience.

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The Dunker (1939) paper was one of the first and leading
psychology papers to show the effects of memory and prior experience on the
perception of colour. They asked how traces of previous experiences affected
the appearance of perceived objects. They used artificial leaves and patched
together a picture of a donkey with these leaves. They then put one leaf and
the donkey onto a white background and exposed it to red illumination, only
showing a tinge of greenness. If the objects were just circles they would look
gray with a tiny green tinge. If memory colour did not exist they would both
look the same colour; grey. However, for 6 out of 9 of the participants, the
leaf appeared to them decidedly greener than the donkey. From the three that didn’t
state a difference in colour, one was a painter whose occupation depends on
distinguishing colour, another was a medical student whom they argued had more
sophisticated mental processing than the other participants, and finally the
last participant was a psychologist who knew the task and therefore knew there
was no difference in colour. The results showed that the donkey appeared half
as green as the leaf, so the difference in colour perception for a known green
object and a known gray object is very large, and shows the impact of our past
experience is very significant in how we perceive the world. Unfortunately,
this study had a very small sample size of 9 people and so how truly we can
apply these results to the entire population is limited, especially as only 6/9
perceived a colour difference. However this study did develop our knowledge of
the effects of prior experience on our perception because it proved that this phenomenon
existed and paved the way for future research to build upon and support these
findings.

 

Following on from Duncker (1939), Hansen et al (2006) found further
evidence for prior experience affecting visual perception when they had
participants adjust the colour of fruits until they appeared achromatic. They
found that participants would adjust a banana to a slightly blueish hue, the
opposite colour to its typical colour, yellow, in order for them to say it
appeared neutral gray. When the banana was actually achromatic participants
said it still appeared yellow to them. They quantified the memory colour effect
by determining how far participants adjusted the fruits in the opposite
direction to their typical colour. They found all 14 participants adjusted the
fruit in the opposite direction to their typical colour unlike Dunker (1939),
where 6/9 participants saw the leaf as decidedly greener, 14/14 participants
had colour memory based off prior experience. This study developed our
knowledge about the effects of prior experience on visual perception because it
was more strictly controlled and more scientific than the Dunker paper (1939) and
included more participants, which make the findings more reliable and it continued
to support the findings that prior experience affects our visual perception, in
terms of colour.

 

Since the Dunker paper (1939) there have been huge
technological advances, one of these advances includes the Functional magnetic
resonance imaging machine (fMRI). Bannert and Bartels (2013) wanted to find out
if memory colour could be represented neurally, and which parts of the brain
are responsible for it. They found that colour decoders could predict from fMRI
activity in V1, the true colour of different objects in the absence of
chromatic stimulation. They found what they believe to be the first evidence
for the encoding of colour in V1 in the absence of any chromatic input. This
shows prior experience leads to neurological changes which we can now see and
measure and begin to understand not only that prior experiences changes
perception but how it does.

 

Bannert
and Bartels (2013) suggested that prior knowledge of colour influences neural
activity at the earliest levels of cortical processing. Aru et al (2016)
supported this when they investigated when prior knowledge effects conscious perception.

They did this by correlating the perceptual benefits of prior knowledge with neural
activity using a magnetoencephalography (MEG). They found a negative
correlation between 80 and 95 milliseconds of a stimulus being shown, in the
occipital and posterior parietal regions, which indicated that prior knowledge
alters conscious perception early in time.

 

Since the dunker paper there have been hundreds of
scientific studies into how prior experience affects perception, not only
visual but other sensations such as taste, smell and pain. There has also been
studies into how not only prior experience but other factors influence perception.

 

Jolji & Myers (2011) had participants detect simplified
emotional faces embedded in noise, whilst they listened to music which made
them happy or sad. They left out target faces in half of the trials and they
found that when looking at an ambiguous facial expression you would perceive it
to be happier or sadder depending on the music the participants were listening
to at the time. However on completely ambiguous faces, participants would give
them a mood and so showing music determining the content of visual perception
in the absence of real visual input. Whilst listening to happy music, participants
were more likely to detect happy faces and vice versa with sad faces. Jolji & Myers (2011)
showed that even in a challenging task, participants’ conscious reports about
stimuli were not only affected by previous knowledge but also by their mood.

 

 

Loftus and Palmer (1974) showed how prior experience could
be changed and in turn it could change people’s perception when they showed
students films of traffic accidents. When questioning them they would change
the wording of the question about how fast the cars were going when they hit
each other? They changed the verb ‘hit’, in different conditions to smashed,
collided, bumped and contacted. They found that when the participants were
given the word contacted the highest speed they guessed was 31.8 mph, however
in the smashed condition the highest speed estimate was 40.8 mph. The
participants perception was altered, from prior experience with the different
words, they gave lower or higher estimates of speed. Prior experience over-road
their actual experience in changing their perception, from previous uses of the
verbs which had been changed in different conditions.

 

Since
the dunker paper (1939) we know that not only does prior experience alter
perception, how it alters perception, when it alters perception and why it
alters perception. Our understanding of prior experience and how it relates to
perception has increased enormously and with each study we gain further
understanding.