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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences : Psychology

Undergraduate Course: From Perception to Cognition: A Journey in Colour (PSYL10166)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course will explore many ways in which humans and other species perceive and think about colour. Colour will serve as a sandbox to study how different psychological domains are inextricably linked and influence each other. Colour is perfect for this - on one hand, a uniquely visual phenomenon that arises from computations performed by sensory neurons, while on the other hand, a conceptual and cognitive domain high in social and emotional salience and influenced by language-derived concepts.
Course description The following topics will be covered: (a) visual ecology of colour, presented through the lens of an "arms race" between predator vision and camouflage of prey; (b) evolution of colour vision, focusing on individual differences between humans; (c) colour preferences and their relation to biological adaptations and colour-emotion associations; (d) colour terms, through the prism of the universalist/relativist debate on how cognition may or may not shape our perception; (e) new discoveries in colour perception brought about by #thedress and similar illusions.

Colour science is multidisciplinary by nature - involving psychology, biology, engineering and arts. By examining several distinct topics in colour science, students will get an opportunity to experience multidisciplinarity in practice, seeing how different disciplines can work together to contribute to scientific knowledge. Through in-class discussions and written assessments, students will also have an opportunity to develop their critical analysis, writing and communication skills.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Psychology 2A (PSYL08011) AND Psychology 2B (PSYL08012)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should be studying Psychology as their degree major, and have completed at least 3 Psychology courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission.

**Please note that upper level Psychology courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces.** These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 176 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Essay (1000 words) 30%; Final Essay (2000 words) 70%
Feedback Feedback from the mid-course assessment will be directly relevant to the final assessment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Explain the recent scientific advances and challenges in several key areas of colour science
  2. Assess the evolutionary and psychological significance of colour
  3. Evaluate the long-standing debate between universalism vs. relativism, as an example of broader theoretical discourse in science
  4. Analyse the complex links between human perception and cognition
  5. Formulate the benefits of interdisciplinary research in science, as exemplified by the study of colour
Reading List
Core reading:
Kernell, D. (2017). Colours and Colour Vision: An Introductory Survey. Cambridge University Press.

Additional reading:
Palmer, S. E., & Schloss, K. B. (2010). An ecological valence theory of human color preference. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107(19), 8877-8882.

Christoph Witzel, Chris Racey, J. Kevin O'Regan; The most reasonable explanation of "the dress": Implicit assumptions about illumination. Journal of Vision 2017;17(2):1. doi:

Martinovic, J., Paramei, G.V., MacInnes, W.J. (2020). Russian blues reveal the limits of language influencing colour discrimination. Cognition, 201, 104281.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Through its interdisciplinary nature, linking different fields of enquiry on a common topic (colour), the course will nurture an inquisitive mindset and promote the acquisition of knowledge outside the narrow domain of psychology.

Students will develop confidence in research skills that cross disciplinary boundaries.
Course organiserDr Jasna Martinovic
Course secretaryMiss Georgiana Gherasim
Tel: (0131 6)50 3440
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