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The University of Southampton

PSYC3043 Multisensory perception in real and virtual worlds

Module Overview

This course explores the fascinating world of perception, within the natural world and in virtual and augmented environments. Students will understand how we use our senses - vision, sound, touch and taste - to decipher information about the objects, scenes and social cues around us. There is a focus on applications: for example, the challenges and benefits of virtual reality - why and when it makes people feel sick, and how it can be used to treat pain, as a clinical tool for delivering therapy, or to create out-of-body experiences. We explore individual differences in perception, including the effects of eating disorders, cultural experience and synaesthesia. Some of the questions we will consider include: Do babies recognise faces? Can people that are blind from birth learn to see? When does touching and hearing change our visual perception? Why do some people taste egg when they hear the letter 'k'? How can augmented and virtual reality help people who have lost a sense, or be used in ‘keyhole’ surgery? Why do illusions occur? The module is open to students who have taken PSYC2018, or visiting students who have taken an equivalent at their home institution.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Describe sources of information from vision, touch, sound and taste, and how they interact to shape perceptual experience.
  • Understand perceptual illusions, bi-stable figures and how these are used to probe consciousness.
  • Discuss how experience, assumptions and individual biases affect human perception.
  • Describe real-world applications of perceptual research.


• Introduction to the module and hands-on laboratory demonstrations. • Perception in new-borns and early infancy: What capabilities exist at birth, and how do we develop? • Recovery & re-calibration: Can perception develop in adulthood, or after extended periods of blindness? • Ambiguous figures: What can these images tell us about perception, or even consciousness? • Moving through the world: How do we perceive motion of ourselves and other objects? What causes motion sickness? • Seeing, feeling and hearing: How can we combine information to understand our surroundings? • Cue-combination & learning: How do we learn about our multisensory world? • Top-down influences on perception: Can our experience, emotional state or clinical conditions affect how we see? • Cultural effects on perception: Does the environment you were raised in determine what you perceive? • Applications and technology: How does emerging technology enhance, augment or just entertain? • Synaesthesia: Why do some people experience a world where the senses are involuntarily joined?

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The course is delivered via weekly, interactive sessions over one semester. Every session includes demonstrations of perceptual phenomena, discussion of key studies and theories, and consideration of applications. The course is supported by a Blackboard site that includes all core reading, suggested papers for further reading, lecture slides and detailed information about the assessments.

Independent Study124
Total study time150


Assessment Strategy

The module is assessed primarily via three activities: (i) Students will create a visual, or multisensory illusion. This can be an image, a set of related images, or a movie. Creativity is encouraged (10% of module mark). (ii) In small groups, students will give short presentations that explain and critique a research article. The articles are provided, and students are given guidance and feedback to plan and refine their presentations in the weeks beforehand, to maximise the benefit to the presenters and their peers (30% of module mark). (iii) In a final exam, students select three short essay questions, from a choice of five. Guidance on how to excel in the exam is provided via example questions, marking criteria, and a drop-in revision session in week 12 (59% of module mark). The remaining 1% of the module mark can be gained via research participation.


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (2 hours) 59%
Illusion submission 10%
Research Participation 1%
Student presentation 30%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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