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Vestibular Sense in Psychology: Definition & Example

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  • 0:00 What is the Vestibular…
  • 1:10 Examples of Vestibular…
  • 2:28 Problems
  • 3:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

In this lesson, you'll learn the definition, importance, and function of the vestibular sense in psychology, as well as problems with where it comes from: the vestibular system.

What is the Vestibular Sense in Psychology?

There is a strong connection between the ear and our sense of balance. Our vestibular sense, also known as the labyrinthine sense, is an elaborate sense that is involved in body position and movement of the head. It comes from the vestibular system in our inner ear and is activated when there is a change in gravity or when our head moves. We would feel very dizzy without our vestibular sense. It helps us focus and feel centered.

We have our vestibular sense to thank when we can keep our bodies upright when jumping, or when we stand from a seated position, or sit from a standing position. It's responsible for our ability to focus on an object, like a person's eyes, even when our head nods up and down in agreement or shakes back and forth in disagreement.

More specifically, the vestibular sense in psychology has special significance to child development and children's ability to maintain balance when learning how to walk, keep their trunk sturdy when learning how to sit up, and develop various visual, fine and gross motor skills. It also has importance with regard to ability to focus and the attention span.

Examples of Vestibular Sense in Psychology

Child development is a fascinating thing. It is wondrous to see babies who did not have particular motor skills the day before all of a sudden be able to hold their head up, turn at the sound of a noise, sit up on their own and walk in a straight line, even if it's wobbly at first.

The vestibular sense in psychology and child development helps kids with:

  1. Gross motor skills: crawling, walking, running, jumping, hitting a ball with a bat, etc.
  2. Fine motor skills: holding objects, turning pages of a book, drawing, etc.
  3. Visual spatial motor skills: following moving objects, etc.

The vestibular sense helps adults with all of the above as well, of course. It's what helps gymnasts do somersaults and remain balanced and straight while doing them. Have you ever tried to roll down a hill while in a barrel? The vestibular sense would help you remain oriented through that joy ride. Interested in carnival rides? The vestibular sense makes riding a merry-go-round or roller coaster possible. It keeps you centered when your body is spinning. The spinning tea cup rides at a carnival or Disney is really testing your vestibular sense's limits. You will likely be dizzy after the ride, but it's your vestibular sense that will reorient you back to normal soon afterwards.

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