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Sensation & Perception - When we smell a fragrant flower, are we experiencing a sensation or a perception?

In everyday language, the terms "sensation" and "perception' are often used interchangeably. However, as you will soon see, they are very distinct, yet complementary processes. In this section, we will discuss some concepts central to the study of sensation and perception and then move on to discuss vision and the perception of pain (it is not possible in the scope of these notes to discuss all the senses). I. Sensations and Perceptions Sensations can be defined as the passive process of bringing information from the outside world into the body and to the brain. The process is passive in the sense that we do not have to be consciously engaging in a "sensing" process.Perception can be defined as the active process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting the information brought to the brain by the senses.A) HOW THEY WORK TOGETHER: 1) Sensation occurs: a) sensory organs absorb energy from a physical stimulus in the environment. b) sensory receptors convert this energy into neural impulses and send them to the brain. 2) Perception follows: a) the brain organizes the information and translates it into something meaningful. B) But what does "meaningful" mean? How do we know what information is important and should be focused on? 1) Selective Attention - process of discriminating between what is important & is irrelevant (Seems redundant: selective-attention?), and is influenced by motivation. For example - students in class should focus on what the teachers are saying and the overheads being presented. Students walking by the classroom may focus on people in the room, who is the teacher, etc., and not the same thing the students in the class. 2) Perceptual Expectancy - how we perceive the world is a function of our past experiences, culture, and biological makeup.For example, as an American, when I look at a highway, I expect to see cars, trucks, etc, NOT airplanes. But someone from a different country with different experiences and history may not have any idea what to expect and thus be surprised when they see cars go driving by.

Another example - you may look at a painting and not really understand the message the artist is trying to convey. But, if someone tells you about it, you might begin to see things in the painting that you were unable to see before. -Definition of Sensation Sensation is the conscious or subconscious awareness of external or internal conditions of the body. For a sensation to occur, four conditions must be satisfied: 1. A stimulus, or change in the environment, capable of activating certain sensory neurons, must occur. 2. A sensory receptor must convert the stimulus to nerve impulses. 3. The nerve impulses must be conducted along a neural pathway from the sensory receptor to the brain. 4. A region of the brain must receive and integrate the nerve impulses into a sensation. A stimulus that activates a sensory receptor may be in the form of light, heat, pressure, mechanical energy, or chemical energy. A sensory receptor responds to a stimulus by altering its membranes permeability to small ions. In most types of sensory receptors, the resulting flow of ions across the membrane produces a depolarization called a generator potential.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------PERCEPTION Perception is the process by which organisms interpret and organize sensation to produce a meaningful experience of the world. Sensation usually refers to the immediate, relatively unprocessed result of stimulation of sensory receptors in the eyes, ears, nose, tongue, or skin. Perception, on the other hand, better describes one's ultimate experience of the world and typically involves further processing of sensory input. In practice, sensation and perception are virtually impossible to separate, because they are part of one continuous process. Thus, perception in humans describes the process whereby sensory stimulation is translated into organized experience. That experience, or percept, is the joint product of the stimulation and of the process itself. Relations found between various types of stimulation (e.g., light waves and sound waves) and their associated percepts suggest inferences that can be made about the properties of the perceptual process; theories of perceiving then can be developed on the basis of these inferences. Because the perceptual process is not itself public or directly observable (except to the perceiver himself, whose percepts are given directly in experience), the validity of perceptual theories can be checked only indirectly. Historically, systematic thought about perceiving was the province of philosophy. Philosophical interest in perception stems largely from questions about the sources and validity of what is called human knowledge (epistemology). Epistemologists ask whether a real, physical world exists independently of human experience and, if so, how its properties can be learned and how the truth or accuracy of that experience can be determined. They also ask whether there are

innate ideas or whether all experience originates through contact with the physical world, mediated by the sense organs. As a scientific enterprise, however, the investigation of perception has especially developed as part of the larger discipline of psychology. For the most part, psychology bypasses the questions about perceiving raised by philosophy in favour of problems that can be handled by its special methods. The remnants of such philosophical questions, however, do remain; researchers are still concerned, for example, with the relative contributions of innate and learned factors to the perceptual process. Such fundamental philosophical assertions as the existence of a physical world, however, are taken for granted among most scientific students of perceiving. Typically, researchers in perception simply accept the apparent physical world particularly as it is described in those branches of physics concerned with electromagnetic energy, optics, and mechanics. The problems they consider relate to the process whereby percepts are formed from the interaction of physical energy (for example, light) with the perceiving organism. Of further interest is the degree of correspondence between percepts and the physical objects to which they ordinarily relate. How accurately, for example, does the visually perceived size of an object match its physical size as measured (e.g., with a yardstick)?