Sensation and Perception
By Jordan Gillespie
Sensation and Perception are different in how we interpret our world. Sensation refers to the process of sensing our environment through our 5 senses: Sound, smell, touch, taste and sight. Perception is the way we interpret these sensations and make sense of our surroundings. Without out both of these processes, we would be cut off from the outside world and vulnerable to threats to our safety and well-being. Sensation and Perception balance and complement each other, They work together to help us identify raw stimuli-related information. Of course, sensation and perception are two completely different processes and elements in how they process the given information, but without sensation, perception would not be possible and without perception, our senses would be “unknown” to us since there is no other mental processing of what we sense.
So how has our understanding of sensation and perception developed? Well, through studies and experiments, we as humans have been able to grip an understanding on how astonishing our senses are. For example, the human eye is capable of detecting candlelight from 30 miles away in the dark. We are also capable of hearing the ticking of a watch in a quiet environment from 20 feet away. Many nonhuman animals maintain other abilities that we would consider to be super-human abilities.
Getting back into perception, it is well known that our experience has an influence on how our brain processes things. We use a something called bottom-up processing when trying out something for the first time and processing stimuli. An example is trying out new perfume or food and deciding if we like it or not. How this process works is building up to perception with the individual pieces. But the stimuli we have experienced in the past can affect on how we process new ones. This is called top-down processing. This contrasts with bottom-up processing because top-down processing deals with a cognitive process that initiates with our thoughts, which flow down to lower-level functions, such as the senses, while bottom-up processing is the senses providing the information up to the brain.
It should be noted that when we encounter a sensory stimulus that doesn’t change, we stop paying attention to it. This is why we don’t feel the weight of our clothing, smell the perfume we put on an hour ago, or instinctively tune out the noise in a crowded room. When a stimulus is constant and unchanging, we experience sensory adaptation. During this process we become less sensitive to that stimulus