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NMSU psychology professor to speak at College of Arts and Sciences colloquium

WHAT: "Vision happens in the brain, not the eyes"


WHO: Michael Hout, assistant professor of psychology

WHEN: 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4

WHERE: Science Hall Room 107 (Elbert Walk and Carol Walker Room)

New Mexico State University's College of Arts and Sciences continues its fall 2013 colloquium series with "Vision happens in the brains, not the eyes," a talk by Michael Hout, assistant professor of psychology.

The discussion will focus on visual search as a critical aspect of living in society.

"Visual search is a behavior we perform hundreds of times a day - looking for your keys, wallet, phone; looking for landmarks on the drive to work; searching for information on a website, etc.," Hout said. "Nearly everything people think they know about the way they search their world is wrong. As is very common in cognitive psychology, our intuitions about our behaviors are frequently far from the truth. We tend to think of vision as being reliant on the eyes, and the eyes alone. But, the computation gets done in the brain long after the information has left the eyes."

Hout said he hopes the talk will serve as an introduction to cognitive psychology to students and faculty and, consequently, that it will open their eyes to a topic that is important to the public.

He likened visual search to taking a series of pictures with a camera.

"Eyes are like the camera; they take little pictures constantly. The brain is like the dark room; it processes the 'raw' information - film - that comes out the eyes. There are many ways in which the film can be developed and stitched together. Similarly, there are many ways in which the brain can process the raw visual input and string it together to give rise to our conscious experience of the world around us."

"This has the potential to foster collaborative cross-department relationships, or at least get people talking," he said, adding that those who attend can expect a fun, laid-back lecture. "I don't mind being interrupted and I want people to feel as if I'm simply telling them a story.

The colloquium series, now in its fifth year, is presenting topics this semester about "Science and Society."

"The purpose is to encourage discussion and dialogue among the faculty and also members of the community," said Heather Throop, biology professor and chair of the Arts and Sciences Colloquium Committee. "The lectures stimulate intellectual dialogue and help people make connections between different focus areas within the diverse College of Arts and Sciences."

The talk will be held from 4 to 5:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, at the Elbert Walker and Carol Walker Room 107 in Science Hall. It is free and open to the public. Visitors to the campus will need a parking permit to park in designated areas on campus. To obtain a free, single-day parking permit before arriving, visit https://ict-iisweb.nmsu.edu/auxadmin/ParkingForms/ePermit.aspx.