PSYA01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: Wilhelm Wundt, Edward B. Titchener, Vocal Folds

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12 Aug 2016
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Ch 4 sensation and perception
Our senses encode the information our brains perceive
From the vantage point of our own consciousness, sensation and perception appear to be one seamless event.
Information comes in from the outside world, gets registered and interpreted, and triggers some kind of action:
no breaks, no balks, just one continuous process. Psychologists know, however, that sensation and perception
are two separate activities. Sensationis simple stimulation of a sense organ. It is the basic registration of light,
sound, pressure, odor, or taste as parts of your body interact with the physical world. After a sensation registers
in your central nervous system, perception takes place at the level of your brain: It is the organization,
identification, and interpretation of a sensation in order to form a mental representation.
As an example, your eyes are coursing across these sentences right now. The sensory receptors in your eyeballs
are registering different patterns of light reflecting off the page. Your brain, however, is integrating and
processing that light information into the meaningful perception of words, such asmeaningful,
perception, and words. Your eyes—the sensory organ—aren’t really seeing words; they’re simply encoding
different lines, curves, and patterns of ink on a page. Your brain—the perceptual organ—is transforming those
lines and curves into a coherent mental representation of words and concepts.
If all of this sounds a little peculiar, it’s because from the vantage point of your conscious experience, itseems as
if you’re reading words directly; again, sensation and perception feel like one single event. If you think of the
discussion of brain damage in Chapter 3, however, you’ll recall that sometimes a person’s eyes can work just
fine, yet the individual is still “blind” to faces she has seen for many years. Damage to the visual-processing
centers in the brain can interfere with the interpretation of information coming from the eyes: The senses are
intact, but perceptual ability is compromised. Sensation and perception are related—but separate—events
We all know that we have five senses: vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Arguably, we possess several
more senses besides these five. Touch, for example, encompasses distinct body senses, including sensitivity to
pain and temperature, joint position and balance, and even the state of the gut. Despite the variety of our
senses, they all depend on the process of transduction, which occurs when many sensors in the body convert
physical signals from the environment into encoded neural signals sent to the central nervous system
In vision, light reflected from surfaces provides the eyes with information about the shape, color, and position of
objects. In audition, vibrations (from vocal cords or a guitar string, perhaps) cause changes in air pressure that
propagate through space to a listener’s ears. In touch, the pressure of a surface against the skin signals its shape,
texture, and temperature. In taste and smell, molecules dispersed in the air or dissolved in saliva reveal the
identity of substances that we may or may not want to eat. In each case physical energy from the world is
converted to neural energy inside the central nervous system (see TABLE 4.1 on the next page). We’ve already
seen that synesthetes experience a mixing of these perceptions; however, even during synesthesia the
processes of transduction that begin those perceptions are the same. Despite “hearing colors,” your eyes simply
can’t transduce sound waves, no matter how long you stare at your stereo speakers!
Psychophysics
It’s intriguing to consider the possibility that our basic perceptions of sights or sounds might differ
fundamentally from those of other people. One reason we find synes-thetes fascinating is because their
perceptual experiences are so different from most of ours. But we won’t get very far in understanding such
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