Distinction between Sensation and Perception

Sensation and perception are two words that are commonly used interchangeable by people. However, critical analysis on these words indicated that there is a basic distinction that separate the two words. Sensation is defined as a process of detecting a stimulus in our immediate surrounding environment using the five senses (Goldstein, 2010). For instance, eyes detect the light waves, ears detect the sound was, nose detect the chemical molecules, tongue detect taste and touch detect heat or pressure. While perception is defined as a process of integrating, organizing and interpreting sensation.


            In order to accurately bring out the basic distinction between sensation and perception, it was important to explain how each term function. For instance, sensation processes functions through five senses. The five senses detect the physical energy in the surrounding environment and transform it into neural energy which is transmitted into the brain for interpretation. For example, the eye detects the light reflected from the objects. The light provides necessary information regarding the shape, position and color of the object. The hear detect vibration that causes changes in the air pressure (Goldstein, 2010).

For example, a press on one key of keyboard causes a vibration that changes air pressure which is detected by the hear in the form of physical energy, the hear transform this physical energy into neural energy and transmit it into the brain. Similarly, the touch detects the pressure of the surface against the skin which provides the information about the temperature, texture and shape. Smell and taste detect the molecules carried in the air or in food and drinks which dissolves in the saliva, thus revealing the type of food that we may or may not eat. Therefore, sensations refer to the signals detected from the environment by the sensory organs and transmitted into the brain. Once these signals reach the brain, it is converted into smell, sight, sound, taste and feelings.


            Perception can be described as what a person can form an opinion or perceive on everything and anything happening in the environment. Typically, it is an absolute personal experience about how or what an individual look or think about the immediate environment. Unlike the sensation which is more of physical energy, perception is more of psychological concept (Olkonen, et al., 2012). For example, people can have different perception about the same thing. Also, people in different generation have different perception about religions due to difference in personal opinion and believes. Similarly, people from different cultural backgrounds have different believes thus perceiving everything and anything happening in their immediate environment differently.

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            Therefore, the basic distinction between sensation and perception is that sensation comes as a result of received stimulus by the sensory organs. The reaction of an individual is based on the stimulus detected by any of the sensory organ. Also, it is more of a physical. On the hand, perceptions are individual believes and thoughts about the anything and everything that happens in the immediate environment. Also, it is an absolutely psychological.

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Perceptual constancies

            According to signal detection theory perceptual constancies come as a result of sensation and perceptions and it affects how individuals interpret events that happens in the world. Therefore, detection of stimulus cannot be an objective process, it is a subjective decision influenced by sensitivity towards the stimulus occurring in the midst of distractions caused by other stimulus such as noise as well as the process of making judgements basing on the ambiguous information (Mathen, 2010). This means that how an individual interprets the surrounding environment is affected by response bias and stimulus intensity. The response biases are influenced by the information collected by the sensory organs about the environment and how an individual interprets neural signals reaching the brain.

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            According to Hunter et al (2007), eyes can lie but the brain cannot. For example, when an individual sees a railway track line from a closer distance, it appears parallel, but when viewed from a distant it appears to be converging. When interpreting this signal, the eyes tells that the railway track line converge when viewed in the distant. However, the brain maintains that the railway track line is parallel it only appears converging when viewed one mile a head (Hunter, et al., 2007). A similar example is that when an incident that involves color perception. When unpainted ceramic cup made using uniform materials appears a uniform color when seen under uneven illumination. Despite the difference in appearance when reflected by the shaded regions and unshaded region to our eyes, the color still appears uniform. Also, consider the volume of the speaker when heard from a distant of 1 meter and from across the room. Although the energy reaching our hears is very different considering the two conditions, the ordinary sense is that the volume of the speaker is the same.

            The above examples depict the kind of perceptual constancy that is central, ordinary and ubiquitous to the way perceptions tells us about the world in which we live. Scholar have argued that without perceptual constancy, people would perceive and experience the immediate environment as world with buzzing confusion and Jamesian blooming surrounded by sounds, shapes and colors without any apparent organization (Bradley, 2008). The variations in perceptual signal is attributed to various factors which include but not limited to individual expectations, perceptual futures and histories, own cognitive, the ambient noise, the lighting conditions, the distance and angle the object is perceived. It is important to understand that if the perception of the world was not constant despite the variations influenced by our perceptual circumstances, there would have been radical misrepresentation of the distal world. This means human being would not have been able to comprehend ways in which the world is stable.

            The prejudice associated with perceptual sets is that people tend to agree with new information without varying their accuracy. For example, a survey about whether taxes should be made compulsory attracted varying responses from the participants (Mathen, 2010). Some supported the proposition that taxes should be made compulsory since it is used to improve quality of life of the public by building infrastructure such as roads, public amenities, schools, hospitals and transport system. While others were against the proposition and they argued that politicians misuse their money.


Human interact with the world using various stimuli detected by sensory organs. The sensory organs detect the physical energy generated by the objects in our surrounding environment and it is converted into neural energy before transmitted into the brain for interpretation. In the brain, neural energy is interpreted differently based on the perceptual constancies and sets which is influenced by response bias and stimulus intensity.

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