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Psychology refers to the science that studies the mind and behaviour. Its goal involves understanding mental processes and their influence on behaviour. It does this by studying general and specific principles attached to the brain and its functions. Psychology tries to understand individual and social behaviour, while at the same time studying factors that lead to certain kinds of behaviour.

In trying to understand psychology, in terms of the behaviour that people display, psychologists study processes of learning, knowing, and storage of information in the mind. They do this by studying topics, such as sensation and perception, conditioning cognitive learning and the biology of memory. This paper explores sensation and perception as concepts, in psychology meant to understand the mental processes and behaviour displayed by people.


Sensation and perception have a close relationship but have different conceptualizations. They play two complimentary, however, different roles in how human beings interpret the world. Sensation refers to the process that involves understanding the world through touch, sound, taste, smell and sight. It involves the input that relates to the physical world produced through our sensory receptors (Coren).

Perception on the other hand refers to the process that involves our minds selecting, organising, interpreting and analysing information send by our sensory receptors.  This functions as the stage where perception and sensation relate closely. Without sensation, perception lacks what to select, organise and analyse. Likewise, without perception, sensation becomes meaningless because the place where interpretation of the information, from our senses will lack.

Vision sends sensory information of what we see, to the brain. The cornea and lens help produce clear images of the visual world. The eye transmits images to the brain through the optic nerve, optic chiasm, lateral geniculation nucleus and visual cortex.

Hearing sends sensory information of what we hear from the physical world. The hearing system distinguishes the quality of signals it receives and sends them to the brain. Hearing separates complex sounds into their component frequencies. The auditory cortex located on both sides of the brain process sound. However, the left auditory cortex perceives and produces speech through programming. Therefore, when the left auditory cortex damages, a person can hear, but become unable to comprehend language.

The taste and smell receptors differ. However, they form separate senses with their own receptor organs. They act together to help people distinguish thousands of flavours that exist, in the word. Taste signals located in the sensory cells transfer to the end of nerve fibres, which send impulses through cranial nerves to taste regions, in the brain stem. From this point, impulses relayed to the thalamus and cerebral cortex, for perception of taste.

The sense of touch collects sensory information of what we feel to the brain, so that the brain can analyze and interpret the kind of feeling we experience, for instance, pain. The sensory receptors of touch exist near the skin. Nerve impulses take the sensation of the stimuli to the brain for interpretation.

We understand the concept of sensation from transduction and coding. Transduction involves the processes where a sensory receptor converts a physical energy or the presence of a physical substance in electrochemical energy that transmits energy to the nervous system of human beings. Stimuli create receptor potentials in the sensory receptor. Receptor potentials add together to produce an action potential in the sensory neuron axons. Action potentials transfer sensory information to the central nervous system (Society for Neuroscience).

Coding involves the means by which information that regards the intensity and quality of stimuli transmits to the central nervous system. Intense stimuli produce high rates of action potentials transferred to the central nervous system. Having different receptors react to different qualities of stimuli code qualitative information. For example, the tongue of human beings has receptors that react to sugar, while others react to acids.

Sensation occurs when sensory organs absorb energy from a certain stimulus in the physical environment. The sensory receptors convert this energy to neural impulses and transmit them to the mind. After this, perception follows. When perception takes place, the mind organises information and, translates it into something meaningful.  In order to understand how sensation works, psychologists study the threshold concept (Madary 633).

In trying to understand the concept of sensation and perception, certain theories have come in to existence. Weber's law explains sensation using the concept of thresholds. The absolute threshold refers to the point where our senses notice something. This involves the soft senses we get from the environment. Anything less than the absolute threshold goes unnoticed. The absolute threshold forms the point, at which a stimulus goes from undetectable to detectable through our senses.

The second type of threshold involves difference threshold. Once we detect a stimulus, we recognise the stimulus through difference threshold. The difference threshold refers to the amount of change needed for us to recognise that a change has happened. We refer to this change as just noticeable difference. For example, when we listen to the sound of a radio from the next room, we notice the change in volume after the volume has gone up. Someone could turn the volume of the radio, slowly, in a way difficult to recognise. The difference does not happen absolutely (Madary 629).

Another theory involves signal detection theory. Sometimes, we get bundled with several pieces of information that require our attention. However, we struggle to pay attention to the pieces of information that we need, and ignore the pieces of information that we do not need. When we do this, we try to determine significant information relevant, to us from background noise. Signal detection refers to this concept because we tend to concentrate on what we want to focus on and ignore any other detail that may come to our senses. 

Another theory that explains sensation and perception involves sensory adaptation theory. This refers to stimuli that have become redundant and fixed for an extended period. Sometimes, we notice certain smells or sounds then thy fade into the background after a short while. For instance we may sense the smell of a certain perfume, which we stop recognising after we get used to it. Sensory adaptation refers to the process of becoming less sensitive to stimulus that does not change.

Sensation and perception identify processes differentiated through their complexity. Psychologists try to explain this phenomenon with the use of psychophysics. This refers to the study of the relationship that exists between physical events and what we experience in those physical events.  The difference between sensation and perception manifests itself as a matter of convenience rather than significance. Sometimes the way people perceive things display a considerable difference. For instance, a blind person cannot perceive a house the same way a person who has eyes can perceive a house. This happens because blind person cannot perceive the physical world using his sight, while a person with eyes can perceive the physical world with his eyes. A blind person has to learn to perceive certain physical world entities using the four senses he remains with, which include, touch, smell, taste and auditory senses (Coren).

It becomes difficult for a blind person to perceive colour relationship. Their perception, to the physical world limits to shape and size. Sometimes, people who have vision can perceive the world without touch. They can decide to use their vision to judge the shape and texture of objects. However, blind people cannot do that. Therefore, the lack or impairment of one sensory organ limits the way people perceive the world. Therefore this shows how sensation and perception works together.

For us to understand how we perceive the world, the concept of totality must come into play. The symmetry of a figure plays an important role, as to how we perceive the physical world. The symmetry of a figure determines not only how we remember a concept, but also how we remember it. For instance, when we observe an object in its total, it becomes easier for us to retain all details that pertain to that object. The second factor that influences people's perception of the planet involves closure. The ability of the mind to close unfinished figures helps, to determine how we perceive things.

In order for people to get a clear perception of certain things, attention must exist. Attention involves the ability, to focus on certain aspects of our immediate and ongoing experiences, while ignoring other aspects of the physical world. Attention helps when handling stimulus variation and perception.  Stimulus variation forms a background that helps us to anchor what we choose, to put our concentration (Clark 4).

Perceptual constancy also matters in perception. Our perception adjusts things we perceive, for instance in circumstances, where the stimulus changes but the object we perceive does no change. For example, when we view a person at five metres away and fifteen metres way, the person still appears the same.


Psychologists came up with the concept of sensation and perception, to help people understand the physical world they live. Sensation and perception help us understand how people experience and interpret the physical world. The concept makes people understand how human beings make appropriate stimulus, such as pain. The brain and the senses act as vital components that enable sensation and perception happen. In addition, Attention is very important for a person to clearly perceive something. The immediate on going activities are essential for attention.

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