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Ch 3: Sensation and Perception

About This Chapter

Discover how your senses allow you to experience the world. Learn about how each sense works and how your brain interprets the sights and sounds we encounter every day.

About This Chapter

If you've ever been to a 3D movie, you've experienced the benefits of sensation and perception research. These movies take advantage of your brain's ability to combine two slightly different 2D images into one 3D image - which it does all the time when interpreting the images it receives from your slightly spaced-apart eyes. In general, the study of sensation and perception in psychology focuses on learning how our eyes, ears and other sense organs detect stimuli from the world around us and transfer these stimuli into signals that the brain can understand and process.

In our first lesson, we'll introduce the field and outline the basic difference between sensation and perception: sensation is the detection of stimuli, while perception is the interpretation of them. Your eyes sense the two 2D images that make up a 3D movie, and your brain perceives them as a single 3D image.

In subsequent lessons, we'll cover the body's major senses. We have two lessons on vision, one which covers the workings of the eye and another that outlines the principles of depth perception. The mechanics of hearing gets a lesson of its own as well, focusing on how the ear turns sound waves into the signals our brains perceive as noise. In another lesson we'll cover the closely-related senses of taste and smell, as well as touch and proprioception, the internal sense that allows the body to tell how its joints and muscles are moving.

Finally, we devote a lesson to the fascinating process of perceptual development. Infants are born with different sensory abilities than adults. Their senses are uniquely suited to their needs; a newborn's vision isn't very sharp, but his hearing is not only fully developed but able to detect his mother's voice and prefer it to other voices.

By watching these videos on sensation and perception, we hope you'll gain a better understanding of complex and finely-tuned processes by which we take in the world around us.

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