The five senses: smell, touch, sight, sound and taste are avenues through which people perceive the world around them. Psychologists argue that through these senses, people do not experience sensation but the results of sensation. Regardless of this, the accuracy and inaccuracy of sensory data is affected by a number of factors namely environmental, psychological as well as physiological, which either distort reality or enhance it. As such illusion plays a big role in determining how accurate or inaccurate stimuli are perceived.
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Naturally, sensory abilities are very accurate. However, a number of reasons lead people to believe in the accuracy of inaccuracy of sensory information. Previous experiences results to generalized assumptions about the nature of stimuli. Such assumptions make people ignore the context in which a given stimuli is perceived. Similarly, both cognitive and physical illusions alter perception, and thus the accuracy of sensory information. Illusions lead to alteration of reality.
When this occurs, stimuli are inaccurately perceived (Stangor, 2010). The five basic senses; light, touch, smell, sound and taste have a tendency to adapt to the environment. Sensory adaptation refers to the ability of sensory receptors to ignore familiar stimuli in preference of new stimuli. As such our senses ignore the fluctuation in the intensity of stimuli. Accuracy of sensory data is thus not guaranteed (Kraft, 1978).
The discussion above alludes to the fact that there are factors that determine the accuracy of sensory data. Accuracy and inaccuracy of stimuli is influenced by knowledge about the environment in which the stimuli is first perceived. This is because specific stimuli are associated with specific environments.
As such, people internalize the environment within which stimuli are perceived. Therefore the environment becomes part of cognitive interpretation of stimuli (Stangor, 2010). Similarly, psychological factors affect the accuracy and inaccuracy of sensory information.
Psychological factors refer to the emotional and the cognitive states of a person. Cognitive skills and abilities affect intelligence as well as how people apply knowledge. Poor cognitive skills might lead to misinterpretation and misapplication of knowledge and as such stimuli is inaccurately perceived. Furthermore, previous experiences may trigger an avalanche of emotions which affects how people perceive stimuli (Gregory, 1997).
Moreover, the physiological factors determines how accurate or inaccurately a stimuli is perceived. Physiological factors refer to the physical element of perception and sensation. Sensory receptors may be poorly developed. This leads to poor reception and interpretation of stimuli, which affects the accuracy of sensory data.
The factors raised above leads to the discussion on the role of nature versus nurture in reference to interpretation of sensory information. Naturalists argue that the ability to sense and interpret sensory data is innate. The ability of sensory receptors to interpret stimuli is determined by genes and not the external environment. This implies that sensory abilities are genetically modified and as such independent of the external environment (Carruthers, 2000).
On the other hand, nurturists argue that sensory perception is learned. This implies that senses develop as a result of environmental experiences. As such people’s experiences of the world and the environment in which they perceive stimuli contribute to the manner in which stimuli is perceived (Cardwell and Flanagan, 2003).
Sensation and perception are complex phenomena that cannot be restricted to a number of reason and factors. This is because the accuracy of sensory information is determined by a variety of variables both within and without human influence, which effectively distorts reality.
Cardwell, M. and Flanagan, C. (2003). Psychology A2: the complete companion – Page 106. Cheltenham, GL: Nelson Thornes.
Carruthers, P. (2000). Phenomenal consciousness: a naturalistic theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gregory, R. (1997). Knowledge in perception and illusion. Web.
Kraft, C. (1978). A psychophysical approach to air safety: Simulator studies of visual illusions in night approaches. New York, NY: Plenum Press.
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Stangor, C. (2010). Introduction to Psychology. Web.