Perception Exhibit Overview

Your mind is astonishing! And so is our newest exhibit. Your mind constructs your experience by distorting, adding, and even leaving things out. By focusing on three senses—touch, hearing and sight—Perception explores how your mind manipulates sensory data to shape your view of the world. Each visit will give you a new appreciation for that wonderful, mysterious organ, the human brain.

Perception Exhibit Highlights

Foley Effects

Foley is the art of creating sound effects in a studio using unconventional objects. At this interactive station you can tap the numbered buttons on the screen to hear a sound match it to one of the objects in the display case. It might be surprising to see what object made that noise. Many times foley artists will create a believable sound effect using a combination of items. In the foley display case you will find things like whistles, hinges, crafted instruments, toys and more. Foley effects are used in film, games, animation and much of the media we consume.

Tactile Exploration

Challenge your sense of touch with the tactile boxes in Perception. Each challenge will prompt you to use this sense as way to identify shapes and textures as well as perceive size and number of objects. Your skin is the largest organ of the body and a landscape of feeling. The amount of information your brain receives from touch is vast. Different types of touch signal reactions in the brain that can inform trust, convey sympathy, release the feel-good neurochemical oxytocin and much more. Explore your brains ability to process sensory data.

Optical Illusions

Experience the way a cognitive illusion distorts your assumptions of an element and its environment. The human eye’s instinctive reactions to contrast combined with certain patterns can result in the illusion of motion in still images, create misconceptions of scale or perceive non-existent subjects. Additionally, the same concepts can be experienced in color in the area of illusions created by artist and professor of psychology, Akiyoshi Kitaoka. Visit the Anamorphosis activity table to see how else illusion is implemented as an art. The activity uses a metallic cylinder as tool undistort an image and reflect a subject that may be hidden in the artwork.

Levitating Arms

Hack your perceived physical abilities in this activity section. Pushing the outside of your hands against the doorways for an extended period can result in an involuntary reaction, levitating arms! This long-lasting muscle contraction is referred to as the “Kohnstamm phenomenon” named for the German neurologist who first described it. Test more of your perceptive abilities in the exhibit by attempting the Just Stand Up challenge at the bench nearby.

Virtual Haircut

Get a new understanding of the term virtual in this immersive experience. Immersion can happen while listening to soundscapes. Perhaps you’ve already tried such an activity as many people use nature soundscapes to meditate or find relaxation. The virtual haircut station uses soundscape ecology, a combination of sounds generated by organisms, objects and humans, to create a convincing experience of getting a haircut in a barbershop. Some visitors might even feel the sensation of tingling on their heads at the sound of clippers, as they sit in the barber chair.


This 2 player activity will challenge your sense of touch as you attempt to translate an image another player draws on your back. Test your spatial understanding of the drawing your partner makes. The result may be that your chalk drawing translation is far from accurate, this is due to the number of touch receptors on your back compared to the other, more sensitive, parts of your skin. Your body’s somatosensory system covers your skin and is made up of different types of touch sensors. Some areas of your body, such as your back, have less dense areas of receptors, thus making this activity a challenging game.

The Leonardo da Vinci Connection

The human brain was elusive and fascinating to Leonardo da Vinci. His medical illustrations demonstrated advanced understandings for his time and they included segmentations of the brain and its’ peripherals. Da Vinci performed dissections and documented his observations of the anatomy of the eye and its’ connections to the brain. He eventually created a cast of the ventricles of an ox brain thus furthering the study of neurophysiology.

This exhibit is included with admission
This exhibit is free for members