Perception and Action



Year three

Human performance is affected by both the ability to process and interpret sensory information (perception) as well as the ability to plan and execute complex movements (action). While related study often highlights the relative contributions of perception and action, it is often the inter-dependence of these that is most relevant to subsequent behaviour. 

While the study of perception and action is often associated primarily with experimental psychology and neuroscience with an emphasis on theory, this module will focus on the application of theory to real world situations, focusing particularly on those situations relevant to performance and rehabilitation. 

The module will take the study of attention as a starting point, introducing students to influential theories and findings from empirical studies, before considering more applied areas such as the nature of attentional deficits (e.g. following brain injury), related rehabilitation and how the modulation of attention can enhance and diminish performance. 
The module will then address the representation of actions focusing initially on the study of motor imagery. Again, the emphasis will be on performance, identifying not only how this can be improved but also what can go wrong through the consideration of phantom limbs, the rubber hand illusion and anosognosia (a deficit in the awareness of action). 

Finally, the module will consider the control of complex actions such as reaching to grasp objects, bimanual coordination as well as balance. The module will consider how enhancing and disrupting perception modifies behaviour and how intervention for those individuals with related difficulties can be driven by knowledge of underlying theories and evidence. 

The module will also have a strong experimental thread running throughout with students gaining experience with classicand novel experimental tasks in the lab. These tasks will be introduced in lectures and discussed in seminars allowing students to reflect on how evidence is generated, the strengths of related knowledge and the limitations when applying knowledge to other situations.

By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • Recognise the multi-disciplinary (e.g. experimental psychology, neuropsychology, sport science, rehabilitation science) contributions to the study of human behaviour in the field of perception and action.
  • Understand and give examples of how perception and action are interdependent processes
  • Analyse data from classic experimental tasks and evaluate the veracity of related influential theories.
  • Discuss the translation of theories to clinical and other applied settings.


Lectures, seminars


Lab report, examination