Sensing has been the foundation for our lives since before birth. It is a safe assumption that sensing shapes the world around us and helps us to synthesize information. The unique thing about sensing is that no two people will have identical thoughts or perceptions; hence, the innumerous possibilities of sensory output. Although the senses are the foundation of our beings, there are instances when we must question the accuracy/inaccuracy of sensory information. Below I will attempt to explain the instances when sensory information can be deceptive and/or receptive. There are three reasons in which we can believe in the inaccuracy of sensory information. First, we are all unique individuals; and no two people perceive things in the same context. I’m reminded of a drawing of an old woman and a young woman. When some people look at the drawing they see the young woman while others see the old woman. This is because our interpretations of what we see are determined by how we process what we see. Some people may see the minutest instances of detail while others see the larger scale. Perceptions are driven by the senses but the senses have to be working effectively to aid in visual stimulation. The second way that we are deceived by our senses is by one’s own cognitive ability. Cognition enables us to solve problems, communicate, learn new information, and know the world around us. We do these things through reasoning and perceiving; however, the ability to do these things efficiently relies on the premise that we actually perceive what we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. De Rosa (2010) best explains “Sensations are impressionistic modes of the mind that are at best cognitively useless (since they carry no information) and at worst cognitively dangerous (since they lead to error (pg. viii)).” If we use the senses keenly, then the possibilities are infinite, and we are truly able to experience the world around us. Finally, we are deceived by the senses when they give us inaccurate information about what we perceive. It is a fair assumption that perceptions can compromise our ability to reason and think objectively. It is especially hard to perceive correctly with interference from science and nature. If what the senses tell us is not accurate, everything that we perceive can be questioned. We cannot grasp certain information because we struggle to differentiate between what we actually see and what’s real (Goodpaster and Kirby, 2007, pg. 57). Kirby and Goodpaster (2007) suggest “When we realize that our senses are fallible, then we can begin to adjust to surface appearance and personal distortions” (pg. 57). There are at least 3 factors that can attribute to the accuracy of sensory data. The first thing is that we must be able to believe what we see. We must be able to synthesize information through the senses in order to correctly process it efficiently. This requires us to not only see the surface, but to also see depth. We must also be able to listen intently and with little effort. Part of the reason we struggle to make sense of things is because we do not know how to listen effectively. Often when people are speaking we are either processing our responses or we are preoccupied with other thoughts. In order to listen more intently we have to empty our minds and focus on the speaker. This will require a desire to hear the message in order to connect with the speaker. When we listen intently we gain more knowledge; thus, we sharpen our ability to hear the world around us. Memory is also a factor that can be attributed to sensory data. Our text suggests that “When memories are laid down in the brain, the neurons related to those memories undergo physical changes” (Kirby and Goodpaster, 2007, pg. 79). In order to improve memory, we have to ensure that we are adding meaning to what we sense. Information is less ambiguous when we can make associations with the information that we already know. Many people use techniques like mnemonics, rhyme-association, repetition, and practice to aid them in remembering important information for tests and/or speeches. Everyone is innately born with characteristics that allow us to perceive sensory data from our environments. Aristotle and other philosophers, believed the mind to be a “blank slate”. They believed that this “blank slate” is what we must write our life experiences upon. The process in which we encode sensory information is determined by how we take in new information and compare it to old information; therefore, we have to nurture the sensory stimuli. By nurturing sensory data, we have to accurately encode data to create desired action(s). We do this by consciously processing the world around us through our senses. So nature and nurture work together to enhance our perceptions and we ‘truly’ begin to experience the world. We’ve discussed instances in which we cannot rely on the senses to accurately tell us about the world around us. We are deceived our interpretations of experiences, by the meanings we give our experiences, and by the knowledge of our experiences. We have also discussed how we can overcome such obstacles and how “nature” and “nurture” work together. We find that we must become better listeners and learn to synthesize sensory information. Our senses will begin to enrich our lives as we understand what we experience.
De Rosa, R. (2010). Descartes and the Puzzle of Sensory Representation. Oxford University Press.
Kirby, G. R. and Goodpaster, J. R. (2007). Thinking (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.