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Sensation and Perception


Sensation:  YOUR WINDOW TO THE WORLDsensation


Sensation:  The processes by which our sense organs receive information from the environment

Perception:  The processes by which people select, organize, and interpret sensations

Basic Definitions:

  • Sense: Physical system that receives physical stimulation from surrounding environment and translates that stimulation into an electrochemical message
  • Sensation: Detecting physical energy in environment and encoding it as neural signals. Neurons transmit the information from the sense organ to the brain
  • Perception: Processing of information done by the brain – mental processes that organize and interpret sensory information that has been transmitted to the brain.

The Cognitive Approach emphasizes that people differ from each other because individual perceptions and thought processes are different.  Sensation and perception in psychology is understanding how our senses work and how we perceive stimuli in the environment.


  • Input of sensory information
  • Process of receiving, converting, and transmitting information from the outside world

Sensory Systems:

Vision:  The most studied of all the senses


  • Light enters through the pupil and reaches the lens which focuses light on the retina
  • The rods and cones convert the light energy into electrical impulses which then travel over the optic nerve to the brain

Hearing:  The auditory nerve carries impulses from the inner ear to the brain, resulting in the sensation of sound


Parts of the Ear:  Ear canal, eardrum, malleus(hammer), incus(anvil), stapes(stirrup), cochlea, and the auditory nerve

Smell and Taste:  The Chemical Senses


SMELL:  The chemical molecules on odor reach the odor receptors in the upper passages of your nose. These receptors convert chemical sensations into nerve impulses through the olfactory nerve to the brain.

TASTE:  Taste receptors or taste buds are on the tongue. There are four basic tastes:  sweet, sour, salty, and bitter



At least four kinds of sensations you get through your skin:

  •       Pressure
  •       Warmth
  •       Cold
  •       Pain

Vestibular Sense (sense of balance):

  • Kinesthetic Sense (did you eat to much, do you have a headache?
  • Kinesthesis sensors in the muscles, tendons, and joints which control body movement, without this one would have to watch their feet as they walked!

Where do these “Senses” Happen?  The Brain!

  • The physical energy in the environment is detected by the eyes, ears, etc. but we can’t see, hear, etc. until the brain interprets them. So in a way, we see, hear, smell, etc. in our brains!
  • Neural impulses from sensory receptors in our eyes, ears, skin, & other sensory organs create neural messages sent to various areas of our brain.

Translation = Transduction = Communication between the brain and the body and between different regions of the brain occurs via neuron

  • Communication between neurons occurs electrochemically. Within neurons = electrical, between neurons = chemical creating the brain’s “language” is electrochemical
  • All senses involve receptor cells. Receptor cells transduce (translate) physical stimulation and energy from the environment into electrochemical messages that the brain can understand.

Transduction: Translating messages into the brain’s language

  • Sense orgrans transduce sensory energy into neural (bioelectrical) energy
  • Converting one type of energy into another type is the process of transduction
  • Your brain only deals with bioelectrical impulses so transduction must occur; what cannot be transduced cannot be a stimulus

Sensation & Perception Processes


  • Sensation: is what occurs when a stimulus activates a receptor
  • Sensation + Experience= Perception
  • Perception: The brain receives information from the senses and organizes and interprets it into meaningful experiences

Sensory Limits: How strong must the message (signal) be for it to be detected by the sensory receptor?

  • Absolute thresholds
  • Difference thresholds
  • Sensory adaptation and habituation
  • Study of these sensory limits and phenomena is called “Psychophysics”


  • Top-Down: Perception is guided by higher-level knowledge, experience, expectations, and motivations
  • Top-Down Processing: Information processing starting “at the top” with higher-level processes and then working down
  • Bottom-Up: Perception consists of recognizing and processing information about the individual components of the stimuli
  • Bottom-Up Processing: Information processing beginning “at the bottom” with raw sensory data” sent “up” to the brain for higher-level analysis

Perceptual Interpretation – A Perceptual Set

  • A mental predisposition to perceive one thing and not another
  • This is based on experiences, assumptions and expectations.

What shapes our perceptual sets?

  • What things do you think might affect our perceptual sets (i.e., our tendency to perceive things in certain ways)?
  • Context effects
  • Past experiences
  • Effects of our culture

Perceptual Set –  Context Effects

The same physical stimulus can be interpreted differently depending on perceptual set, e.g., context effects.


When is the middle character the letter B and when is it the number 13?

Perceptual Set:  Interpretation

  • What is seen in the picture depends on the order and direction one looks at the figures, look at the next picture from LEFT to RIGHT

context 2


We can only pay attention to one aspect of one object at a time – 


Extrasensory Perception – (ESP):

  • Telepathy: Mind-to-mind communication. One person sending thoughts and the other receiving them.
  • Clairvoyance: Perception of remote events, such as sensing a friend’s house on fire.
  • Precognition: Perceiving future events, such as a political leader’s death.
  • Perception without sensory input is called extrasensory perception (ESP). A large percentage of scientists do not believe in ESP

An “alleged” perception


Bernstein, D.A. & Nash, P.W. (2008). Essentials of psychology (4th ed.) Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Feldman, R. (2013). Essentials of understanding psychology (11th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.

Friedman, H.S. & Schustack, M.W. (2012), Personality: classic theories and modern research (5th ed). Boston: Pearson Allyn & Bacon.

McGraw-Hill.McGraw Hill Higher Education (2013), The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc.

Ryckman, R. M. (2013). Theories of personality (10th ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.


  1. Clarisse Noubissi Tchemwe says:

    read but understand little


  2. Clarisse Noubissi Tchemwe says:

    professor in the quiz we mention that four or maybe five type of taste i would like to know if the umani is another form of taste?


  3. sherryrem26 says:

    read and I did not understand much. When you went over it in class last week, I understood some of the information.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. cindyv85 says:

    read and got confused a little

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lara says:

    Read and understood more this time. I also l liked the videos, made more sense after watching them.


  6. Calvin Cannon says:

    Read and Understood. An example I can think of regarding sensation and perception is someone getting food poisoning. Sensation being what they remembering what the food taste and smelled like, remembering the feeling of being sick and how bad they felt. Perception being the restaurant they got sick from and never going back there again because that’s all they can think of. Perception is reality and everyones’ perception differs from one another.


  7. Melissa Morillo says:

    read and understood, also liked the videos


  8. Kamilla DeFreitas says:

    read and understood, videos helped understand sensation and perception better. Still unsure about top-bottom (processing) and bottom-up (processing) an example would be very helpful.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. JingRen says:

    Read and partly understood

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Debbie Ross says:

    read and understood some, will re-read to clearly understand. think i posted my comment in the wrong area earlier.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. lillyanamayo says:

    Read and understood the basics. I especially found the selective attention test interesting!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. hfisk801 says:

    Read and understood


  13. anthony mansi says:

    Read it and understand


  14. Sayomi says:

    read and understood.


  15. Kiana Jeanniton says:

    Read and I understand

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Olivia Filipowich says:

    Read & Understood


  17. Thope says:

    I read and some what understood .

    There are many different ways you can process certain things , feelings , etc ; with your sensations and perceptions. It all depends on how and when you process those certain things.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. THope says:

    Read and understood .


  19. Sindi Ventura says:

    read and understood.


  20. Fernando L Sousa says:

    Read and Understood I think ? Perception can be different for a lot of reasons and that’s why no one is technically right or wrong it depends on how the information was processed or perceived, like in the video younger people saw the younger person in the picture i thought that was neat !

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Lydia Li says:

    Read and understood most parts


  22. kdhernandez11 says:

    Read and watched the video, kinda understood


  23. Navy says:

    Read and understood


  24. read and understood some parts the videos helped better


  25. Hrich says:

    Read and understood.


  26. dezgoncalves says:

    Read and understood!


  27. aymarasoto says:

    Read and understood

    Liked by 1 person

  28. David Name Leon says:

    read and understand


  29. philgdasilva says:

    Read and Understood!


  30. yu012117 says:

    Read but bit confused


  31. Nigus Mebratu says:

    read and understand


  32. raptorswinthechampionship says:

    read and understand


  33. hibaeva says:

    Read, like and understood


  34. c5santos says:

    Read and understood!! 🙂


  35. Avery Ross Burkhardt says:

    Read it and understand it

    Liked by 1 person

  36. sanunez27 says:

    Read and understand

    Liked by 1 person

  37. Veronica Emilia Nuzzolo, Ph.D., CADC says:


    Liked by 1 person

  38. ojune4 says:

    read and understand!

    Liked by 1 person

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