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Sensation vs Perception Essay

In general, sensation refers to how individuals detect physical energy or stimuli from the environment (which is external) and encode them as neural signals. In short, sensation is analysis that originates with the sense receptors or receivers and works up to the central nervous system’s integration of information. Perception, on the other hand, refers to how individuals select, organize, and construct information (interpreted stimuli). In short, perception is the processing of information, guided by higher degree mental processes. When an individual constructs perception, he/she is generally drawing on ‘derived’ experiences and expectations.

According to psychologists, perception is a supra-active process. Individuals tend to impose organization upon seemingly meaningless stimuli that sensory receptors receive from the environment. A classic example of the sensation-perception dichotomy is as follows: suppose that you are writing your name on a piece of paper while looking in a mirror. Sensation would comprise sensory stimuli derived from looking in the mirror. Judging that such stimuli are, as of the moment insignificant, you struggle to impose some organization upon meaningless stimuli.

In this case, you should know that your primary task is to properly write your name on a piece of paper. The act of looking in the mirror is a decoy to the act of writing your name in a piece of paper. Another classic example would be: tasting two different foods without smelling them. In an ordinary setting, smelling ‘adds’ flavor to the food, even though they taste the same. A food which smells better than another food would be considered ‘tastier’, ceteris paribus. In short, when you taste two different foods without smelling them, the taste tend to be ‘similar. ’ This is not the case when the sense of smell is active.


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