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Sensation and Perception

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Sensation and Perception

Imagine sitting in a coffee shop. What do you think about when you imagine it? The smell and taste of coffee? The sounds of the music and people? Now try and imagine a world without sensations or perceptions. You walk into the coffee shop, and what you can smell, taste, hear, see or feel?

Sensation and perception are our keys to understanding and experiencing the world around us.

  • What are sensation and perception?
  • What are examples of sensation and perception?
  • What are disorders that affect sensation and perception?
  • What are factors that impact our sensation and perception?

Compare and Contrast Sensation and Perception

To compare and contrast sensation and perception, we must first define these two terms.

A sensation is the reaction of a sensing organ to a source of physical energy or stimuli (Feldman, 2019).

Perception is the organizing, interpreting, analysis, and understanding of the stimuli by the sense organs and the brain (Feldman, 2019).

In other words, to sense something means that a stimulus has activated one of your sensing organs. On the other hand, your brain has to take that sensation and make sense of it to perceive something. Sensation and perception are not entirely dissimilar, you need one for the other, and both are involved in the process of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling. Your sensing is only as good as the organ doing it. If you have a lazy eye, you cannot sense as well as someone with two good working eyes. However, you still might be able to perceive well thanks to your brain using vision from the good eye and making sense of the stimuli anyway.

Sensation and Perception Examples

Examples of sensation and perception include hearing, vision, smell, taste, and touch. But we also know that we can differentiate even beyond those five into more specific senses. For example, touch includes more sensations like pain, itching, and burning, while taste includes sensations like sour and sweet, etc.

Sensation and Perception, woman smelling flowers, StudySmarterWoman smelling flowers, Pexels.com

Audition (hearing)

Our ears act as sensory organs and detect air pressure or sound waves. The height of a sound wave determines the loudness, while the length determines the pitch. Our brain then helps us process the sound waves into a recognizable or unrecognizable sound, such as knowing a mother's voice or a familiar song.

Vision

Our eyes act as sensory organs and detect light waves, which results in the sense of seeing. The distance from one peak to another, the wavelength, determines the hue we see, while the height, or amplitude, determines the brightness. Our brain then helps us make sense of what the eye takes in and starts to form a recognizable picture of our surroundings.

Touch

The act of feeling is experiencing stimuli through the skin, our largest organ. Overall, the sense of touch is a combination of pressure, temperature, and pain. Our brain will take these various sensations and attach meanings to them to make sense of the different feelings. Pain is our body's way of warning us when we are in contact with something harmful.

Gustation

This refers to the sense of taste. Taste, similar to touch, is a combination of various sensations; salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and savory. Taste, like the other senses, was developed as a survival function. Sweet food means energy source (like fruit). Salty usually indicates essential minerals, and sour could mean potentially harmful food. Bitter food might be a warning for potential poisons, and savory can signify protein to repair tissues.

Olfaction

Smell, like taste, is a chemical sense. When we breathe, our nose catches tiny molecules of whatever substance is around us, and they land on receptor cells in our nose. Unlike our other senses, the olfactory neurons are older than the perceiving part of our brain - meaning our perception comes from the olfactory cortex in our nose.

Sensation and Perception in Psychology

Sensation and perception in Psychology are known as psychophysics. Psychophysics studies how the physical elements of stimuli and their psychological counterparts are connected and how they relate to one another when sensing and perceiving. It is often thought that psychophysics was the grandfather of psychology, with many of the first psychologists studying it.

For example, psychophysics looks into how listening to sad music makes you feel or perceive things around you to be sadder. Researchers have even found that you're more likely to perceive an average or neutral object/ image as a gun or weapon when you're angry.

The Gestalt theory is often referred to as what the modern study of perception was built on. The Gestalt theory identifies the five main ways people group stimuli together to make sense of their perceptions. The five ways of grouping are similarity, proximity, continuity, closure, and connectedness.

Sensation and Perception Disorders

To understand sensation and perceptions disorders, first, understand that sensory processing is the process and ability to take in and make sense of sensory stimuli. There are two main ways to process sensory input - bottom-up and top-down.

Bottom-up processing starts at the sensory level and works up to higher processing to make sense of the stimuli.

Top-down processing builds perceptions from the sensory input based on experience or expectations.

Sensory processing disorders

Sensory processing disorders are a type of sensation and perception disorder largely impacted by perception. This is an issue in top-down processing. Those with a sensory processing disorder might respond too strongly or not strong enough to sensory stimuli. The critical thing to remember is that a sensory processing disorder is not a problem with the sensing organ but how the brain processes the stimuli.

Sensory organ disorders

This kind of sensory disorder is a malfunction of the sensory organ and causes issues in bottom-up processing. The levels can vary. For example, it is possible to have partial or complete hearing or vision loss. The first can be corrected with hearing aids or glasses. Some rare disorders or illnesses can cause people to no longer feel pain or be able to smell or taste.

Sensation and Perception, woman reading braille using fingers, StudySmarterWoman reading braille, pexels.com

Factors affecting our sensation and perception

There are a lot of factors affecting our sensation and perception. The absolute threshold is the least amount of energy stimuli that can be perceived or detected at least 50 percent of the time. While the word absolute makes it seem like the 'absolutely' lowest level of detection, we can often detect stimuli below the absolute threshold if we are paying attention. On the other hand, we cannot perceive some stimuli at all, while other living creatures can.

The difference threshold is the level of change needed in the stimuli's intensity (less or more) to sense that the level has changed. Sometimes this is also called the just noticeable difference.

Adaptation is another prominent influencer on our sensation and perception. Adaptation results from continuous exposure to a specific stimulus resulting in a lessened or lowered perception of that stimulus. You can notice this during concerts. At first, loud music can startle you, but you become more adapted to the stimuli after time. The loud music becomes less startling and even enjoyable.

Sensation and Perception - Key takeaways

  • A sensation is the activation of the sense organs by a source of physical energy or stimuli, and perception is the sorting, interpretation, analysis, and integration of the stimuli by the sense organs and the brain.
    • The 5 main senses are audition, vision, touch, gestation, and olfaction.
  • The Gestalt theory identified the five main ways people group stimuli together to make perceptions: similarity, proximity, continuity, closure, and connectedness.
  • Bottom-up processing starts at the sensory level and works up to higher processing to make sense of the stimuli and top-down processing builds perceptions from the sensory input based on experience or expectations.
  • The Absolute threshold is the smallest amount a sense can be experienced to be perceived or detected no less than half the time and the difference threshold is the amount of change needed in the stimuli's intensity (less or more) to sense that the level has changed.

  • Adaptation results from continuous exposure to a specific stimulus resulting in a lessened or lowered perception of that stimulus.


References

  1. Feldman, R. S. (2019). Essentials of understanding psychology. McGraw-Hill Education.
  2. Myers, D. G. (2014). Myers' psychology for Ap. Worth Publishers.
  3. Weseley, A., & McEntarffer, R. (2012). Barron's Ap psychology (5th ed.). Barron's.

Frequently Asked Questions about Sensation and Perception

A sensation is a stimulus that activates one of your sensing organs. Perception is how your brain tries to take make sense of that sensation.

A sensation is the reaction of a sensing organ to a stimulus.

Perception is the organizing, interpreting, analyzing, and understanding the stimulus.

Sensation and perception are both needed for the process of seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling.

An example of sensation and perception is the use of a lazy eye. If you have a lazy eye, you cannot sense as well as someone with two good working eyes. However, you still might be able to perceive well thanks to your brain using vision from the good eye and making sense of the stimuli.

Sensation and perception in psychology are important because they make what is known as psychophysics. Psychophysics studies how the physical elements of stimuli and their psychological counterparts are connected. It also explores how they relate to one another when we sense and perceive things. An example of psychophysics is how listening to sad music makes you feel or perceive things around you to be sadder.

Final Sensation and Perception Quiz

Question

How is visual perception different from visual acuity?

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Answer

Acuity is the ability to see clearly, and perception is the ability to interpret visual information.

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Question

What are the different types of vision?

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Answer

Photopic, Color, Scotopic, Mesopic

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True or False: Photopic vision is the ability to perceive visual data in daylight or settings with adequate lighting.

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Answer

True

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True or False: The other name for Scotopic vision is Mesopic vision.


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Answer

False

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Question

During Scotopic vision, which cells in the eye are activated?

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Answer

Rod cells

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Why is visual perception important?


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Answer

It helps us make sense of visual information for survival and daily life.

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What are the two main theories in psychology regarding visual perception?

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Answer

Top Down Processing Theory and Bottom Up Processing Theory

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With Top Down Processing Theory, visual perception is explained as a constant state of?

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Answer

Hypothesis testing

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Who proposed the Bottom Up Processing?

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Answer

James Gibson

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What are examples of phenomena that cannot be explained by Bottom Up Processing Theory?


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Naturally occurring illusions such as mirages

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What are examples of phenomena that cannot be explained by Top Down Processing Theory?

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Answer

Infant visual perception

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Who proposed the Top Down Processing Theory?


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Richard Gregory

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True or False: Neither Bottom Up Processing Theory not Top Down Processing Theory can explain the full extent of human visual perception.

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Answer

True

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What does Perceptual Cycle mean?

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Answer

The cycle of interaction between Top Down and Bottom Up Processing

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Who proposed the concept of Perceptual Cycle?


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Ulric Neisser

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Question

In which setting is a person with sensory processing disorder more likely to be found?

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Answer

A person who is fearful of loud noises.

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Which intervention recognizes the behavior and is beneficial to people with SPD?

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Answer

Occupational Therapy

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The state wherein a person's capacity to receive signals from their senses is either undetected or improperly processed, resulting in inappropriate behavioral responses.

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Answer

Sensory processing disorder

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Which is NOT an indication of a sensory processing disorder in a child?

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The toddler can calm himself by playing with toys.

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How can parents help a child with a sensory processing disorder?

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Let the child be assessed for early intervention.

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This is a pattern of SPD in which people have trouble regulating their responses to sensory stimulation.

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Sensory Modulation Disorder

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Which of the following behaviors represent sensory under-responsiveness?

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The child doesn't seem to respond even after being called.

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All statements apply to sensory-based motor disorders except:

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Persons with this condition can smoothly coordinate body movements.

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Which of the following difficulties DO NOT represent interoception discrimination disorder?

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Answer

Difficulty following verbal instructions.

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All statements are TRUE about SPD and ASD except:

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SPD and autism are always the same brain conditions.

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Which statement best describes proprioceptive discrimination disorder?

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Answer

Difficulty processing sensory input that deals with muscle movements.

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All statements are TRUE about the identification of SPD except:

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An artist can identify SPD as they observe motor development linked to sensory disability.

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Postural disorder and dyspraxia belong to which pattern of SPD?


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Sensory-based motor disorder

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Which of the following is a distinguishing feature of sensory over-responsiveness?

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Highly sensitive

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All statements are TRUE about SPD and ADHD except:

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SPD and ADHD have the same neurological bases.

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Question

What is a basic definition of vision?

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Answer

The refraction of light absorbed by the eye forms into a neural impulse, followed by the process of perception.

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What is the Iris?

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The colored circular structure of the eye.

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What is the lens?

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A curved-shaped disk that bends and flexes its shape to help focus light.

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What is the cornea?

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Sits on the top of the iris and lens and acts as a clear protective barrier to the eye.

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What is the ciliary body of the eye?

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A circular muscle attached to the lens to help bend and shape the lens.

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Describe the retina.

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One of the most essential visual structures. It is located in the back of the eye and is home to the photoreceptors.



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Describe the optic nerve?

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Nerve fibers attached to the back of the eye sending visual information to the brain.



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What do photoreceptors do?

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Convert light into neural impulses.

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What are the two types of photoreceptors?

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Rods and cones

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What are rods (in visual anatomy)?

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Photoreceptors that are activated in low light.

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What are cones (in visual anatomy)?

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Light-activated photoreceptors that are responsible for detailed vision.

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What is the lateral geniculate nucleus (LGN)?

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Located at the mid-brain in the thalamus, the LGN organizes the visual information by visual fields.

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What is Accommodation?

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The focus between either near or farther objects through the contraction of the lens.

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What is visual acuity?

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The amount of detail and sharpness in your visual perception.

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The average human has more cones than rods. True or False?

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Answer

False. 

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Question

What are two characteristics of light that allow us to see colors?

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Answer

Wavelength and intensity 

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A _____ is a distance from one wave peak to the next wavelength.


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Answer

wavelength

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Question

These peaks in the wavelength are what determine the ____ of a color that we are

perceiving.

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Answer

hue

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Question

There are lots of working components of the eye which are involved in processing colors. What are they?

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Answer

 the pupil, iris, lens, and retina.

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Question

Light travels through the ____?

A. iris

B. pupil

C. monocular cue


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Answer

 B. pupil

Show question

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