Why do we see what we see? Visual Perception at Woodson North

Over the passed few weeks at Woodson North, our students have had the privilege of learning from an Immunologist and Ichthiologist! On Friday, March 14, Brianna Marte, one of our brightest and most dedicated Sisters4Science students explored the field of psychology with Dr. Sarah Elliot. Dr. Elliot is a professor of psychology at Roosevelt University and investigates how the neural processes of visual perception relate to social attitudes.


Dr. Elliot introduces Brianna to the several fields within the study of psychology!

When Dr. Elliot asked Brianna what she thought “psychology” was Brianna quickly responded, “The study of people.” Brianna went on to learn that day, that psychologists do not only study people but also how people view themselves. STEM Facilitator, Tolu Rosanwo, also alerted Brianna to the possible badge for her that day: “Discover Scientific Knowledge.” Brianna was challenged to not only think but sound like a scientist by using new vocabulary for Dr. Elliot’s lesson and understand some major concepts.



Dr. Elliot had a series of thought-provoking videos and exercises for Brianna. Brianna not only learned where in the brain allows us to recognize people (fusiform gyrus), but disorders where people cannot even recognize themselves in the mirror (Prosopagnosia)! Brianna also did an activity identifying celebrities and thought about why she could recognize them without even seeing their faces.


Who is that? “Barack Obama!” Brianna recognized our president without seeing his face because of his ears and also because like many of us, she has seen him thousands of times on television.

Lastly, Brianna did a study on racial bias in determining the ethnicity of others. Dr. Elliot first showed her actors, Ken Watanabe, Bruce Lee, and Ken Jeong (Japanese, Chinese and Korean respectively), and asked Brianna to guess their ethnicities. Dr. Elliot explained that it was hard for Brianna largely because Brianna is not Asian and does not see many Asian faces on a daily basis. To experience this again, Dr. Elliot gave Brianna a test where she had to determine whether a “racially ambiguous” face was “Black” or “White” and her answer changed after looking at a series of black faces and white faces for a time. In a matter of minutes, Brianna learned that her perceptions of others are so strongly influenced by what she considers normal or average.


Is this face white or black?

The experience that day was incredibly fascinating, and Brianna learned that psychology is more than just “therapy” but is a vast field with many implications answering many questions.


Thanks, Dr. Elliot for such an intriguing lesson!

P.S. Brianna got her badge!

Tolu Rosanwo



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