Perception and Sensation

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In psychology we tend to study sensation due to our ways of organizing and responding to the world depend a great deal on the way which our senses filter or select from the stimuli, or information, around us. We come to know our world primarily through our senses, and often what we sense often affect our behaviour.

Definition of sensation: Any fundamental experience of events from within or without the body that results from simulation of some receptor system. Sensation is distinguished from perception in that perception requires the interpretation of a sensation. This distinction is somewhat arbitrary(absolute), however, because some perception of a sensation must occur before awareness of that sensation is possible.

To put it in a simpler explanation: Although intimately related, sensation and perception play two complementary but different roles in how we interpret our world. Sensation refers to the process of sensing our environment through touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. This information is sent to our brains in raw form where perception comes into play. Perception is the way we interpret these sensations and therefore make sense of everything around us.

Simple example of sensation and perception are:
Sensation: Physical response. Information which is gathered through one of the human five senses, like touching a guitar string and the feeling of the string structure. Perception: Our mental response towards the sensation, like seeing an electric guitar and thinking of rock and roll.

So how do sensation and perception work together? When sensation occurs, the sensory organs absorbs energy from a physical stimulus in the environment and then the sensory receptors convert this energy into neural impulses and send them to the brain. And then perception follows via the brain process of organizing the information and translate it into something “meaningful”.

The term “meaningful” in the above context is how the brain determine whether the information is important and whether it should be focused on. We can determine this by using a process called Psychophysics.

Psychophysics can be defined as, the study of how physical stimuli are translated into psychological experience.

In psychophysics there are two process that can be done to measure the importance of the information that have been gather, Selective Attention and Perceptual Expectancy. Selective Attention is a process of discriminating between what is important and is irrelevant and is influenced by motivation.For example, students in a lecture class should be focusing on what the lecturer is saying and the overheads that are being presented.When a student who doesn't take the lecture walk by the classroom, the student may be focusing on the people in the room, who is the teacher, etc and not the same thing the student in the class.

Perceptual Expectancy is how we perceive the world is a function of our past experience,culture and our biological makeup.For instances, as a local Malaysian city dweller, when I look at a highway I expect to see cars, trucks, etc, NOT airplanes. But for someone from the rural area, aboriginal folks perhaps, who have different experiences and history, they might not have any idea what to expect and thus be surprise when they see cars go driving by.

A simpler explanation for perceptual expectancy can be describe with the situation when we look at a picture or painting perhaps, we might not have any idea what the message that they are trying to convey. But if someone tells you about it, you might be begin to see things in the picture or painting that you were unable to see before.

Here is an experiment to test perceptual expectancy. From the picture given above, can you find the hidden tiger?

Anyway, in order to measure these psychophysics events psychologist use threshold. A threshold is a dividing line between what has detectable energy and what does not.For example, no matter how bright X-ray light...
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