Module PCP-3006:
Perceiving & Acting in 3-D

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Simon Watt

Overall aims and purpose

This module explores how vision allows us to perceive the three-dimentional (3-D) structure of the world. This doesn't just mean how 3-D movies work (although we will talk about that), but the more fundamental perceptual processes involved.

Our ability to see in 3-D is a critical part of how the world looks as it does, and how we are able to successfully perform actions within it. Moreover, the ease with which your visual system achieves this feat belies the fact that it is fundamentally a very hard set of problems to solve. Understanding it therefore provides general insights into computational power of the brain.

Course content

The module will consider this topic from the point of view both of conscious perception, and how the brain controls complex actions suc as grasping objects. We will also examine some applications of this knowledge to real-world problems. The course will: 1. Present, past and current theoretical models of how vision allows us to percieve the three-dimentional space around us (properties such as distance, shape, size of objects), and interact with objects. 2. Teach the methods used in experiments on perception and action, including traditional psychophysics and new methods such as motion capture. 3. Discuss visual guidance of actions such as grasping, using evidence from the movements of brain-damaged patients and intact subjects. 4. Review recent evidence and computational theories of how information from vision is combined with other senses such as touching and hearing. 5. Explore applications of Vision Science to our understanding of media such as 3-D movies, and in particular why they cause problems for a significant number of viewers.

The module consists of a combination of lectures and bi-weekly seminar sessions, in which you'll work in small groups getting some hands-on experience of the issues discussed in class.

As well as covering the specific topics above, a key 'higher-level' goal is to illustrate the general approach that Vision Science take to answering scientific questions. Sometimes this contrasts significantly with other areas of psychology, and we'll touch on the philosophical underpinnings, and historical background to these approaches.

Assessment Criteria


Adequate answer to the question, largely based on lecture material. No real development of arguments.


Reasonably comprehensive coverage. Well organised and structured. Good understanding of the material.


Comprehensive and accurate coverage of the area clarity of argument and expression. Depth of insight into theoretical issues.

Learning outcomes

  1. Describe and critically evaluate the main current theoretical approaches to depth perception, and their historical origins, and know the key findings from the depth perception literature.

  2. Consider theoretical how depth perception relates to visually-guided actions, with reference to the research literature on visual guidance of action.

  3. Evaluate and critically discuss research articles in the field in light of theoretical models, and methodological strengths and weaknesses.

  4. Present a critical review of recent evidence on one chosen topic.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Coursework Essay 40
EXAM Final Exam 60

Teaching and Learning Strategy

Lecture 22
Private study 168
Workshop 10

Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting

Subject specific skills

  • Understand the scientific underpinnings of psychology as a discipline.
  • Apply multiple perspectives to psychological issues and integrate ideas and findings across the multiple perspectives in psychology.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in written form.
  • Retrieve and organise information effectively.
  • Handle primary source material critically.
  • Work effectively under pressure (time pressure, limited resources, etc) as independent and pragmatic learners.
  • Problem-solve by clarifying questions, considering alternative solutions, making critical judgements, and evaluating outcomes.
  • Reason scientifically and demonstrate the relationship between theory and evidence.
  • Understand and investigate the role of brain function in all human behaviour and experience.
  • Comprehend and use psychological data effectively, demonstrating a systematic knowledge of the application and limitations of various research paradigms and techniques.
  • Employ evidence-based reasoning and examine practical, theoretical and ethical issues associated with the use of different methodologies, paradigms and methods of analysis in psychology.

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: