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 Sensation and Perception

Create learning materials about Sensation and Perception with our free learning app!

  • Instand access to millions of learning materials
  • Flashcards, notes, mock-exams and more
  • Everything you need to ace your exams
Create a free account
Table of contents

    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, StudySmarterFg. 1 Woman 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, StudySmarterFg. 2 Woman 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 perceptionis 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

    What is the difference between 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.

    What is sensation and perception?

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

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

    How do sensation and perception work together?

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

    What is an example of sensation and perception?

    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.

    Why are sensation and perception important to psychology?

    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.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    How is visual perception different from visual acuity?

    What are the different types of vision?

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

    Next

    Discover learning materials with the free StudySmarter app

    Sign up for free
    1
    About StudySmarter

    StudySmarter is a globally recognized educational technology company, offering a holistic learning platform designed for students of all ages and educational levels. Our platform provides learning support for a wide range of subjects, including STEM, Social Sciences, and Languages and also helps students to successfully master various tests and exams worldwide, such as GCSE, A Level, SAT, ACT, Abitur, and more. We offer an extensive library of learning materials, including interactive flashcards, comprehensive textbook solutions, and detailed explanations. The cutting-edge technology and tools we provide help students create their own learning materials. StudySmarter’s content is not only expert-verified but also regularly updated to ensure accuracy and relevance.

    Learn more
    StudySmarter Editorial Team

    Team Sensation and Perception Teachers

    • 8 minutes reading time
    • Checked by StudySmarter Editorial Team
    Save Explanation

    Study anywhere. Anytime.Across all devices.

    Sign-up for free

    Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.

    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App

    The first learning app that truly has everything you need to ace your exams in one place

    • Flashcards & Quizzes
    • AI Study Assistant
    • Study Planner
    • Mock-Exams
    • Smart Note-Taking
    Join over 22 million students in learning with our StudySmarter App