The Psychology of Perception Using All of Our Senses

Here is a summary of how we utilize each one of our senses to perceive the world around us:


In visual perception, some people can actually see the percept shift in their mind’s eye. Others, who are not pictured thinkers, may not necessarily perceive the ‘shape-shifting as their world changes. People who have variates of autism see in pictures. An autistic person with Asperger’s syndrome explained to me once that the way they view their life is like a person were to videotape you and after, let’s say, one second of video, you would have 50 picture frames per second (fps). If you were to lay those pictures out and look at the frame to frame, you could see your surroundings with extraordinary clarity in more detail. That’s why in some cases of autism, some people can remember down to the exact minute of something they did years back.

The ‘moulding into one’ nature has been shown by experiment, and an ambiguous image has multiple interpretations on the perceptual level. This confusing ambiguity of perception is exploited in human technologies such as camouflage and also in biological mimicry, for example, by European Peacock butterflies, whose wings bear eye markings that birds respond to as though they were the eyes of a dangerous predator.


Hearing is our ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations. Frequencies capable of being heard by humans are called audio or sonic. The range is typically considered to be between 20 hertz and 20,000 Hz. Frequencies higher than audio are referred to as ultrasonic, while frequencies below audio are infrasonic. The auditory system includes the ears and inner structures, which produce neural signals in response to the sound. Within the human brain’s temple lobe, the primary auditory cortex is where auditory information arrives in cerebral cortex. (Cerebral cortex is my favourite part of the brain. That’s where all my great thoughts and memories are stored, or maybe I just like the words cerebral and cortex used together). Anyway, hearing involves the computationally complex task of separating the sources of interest, often estimating their distance and direction and identifying them.


Speech perception is the process by which the sounds of language are heard, interpreted and understood. Research in speech perception seeks to understand how human listeners recognize speech sounds and use this information to understand spoken language. A word’s sound can vary widely according to the words around it and the speech’s tempo, and the speaker’s physical characteristics, accent, and mood. Listeners manage to perceive words across this wide range of different conditions. Another variation is that reverberation can make a large difference in sound between a word spoken from the far side of a room and the same word spoken up close. Experiments have shown that people automatically compensate for this effect when hearing speech. The process of perceiving speech begins at the sound level within the auditory signal and the audition process. After processing the initial auditory signal, speech sounds are further processed to extract acoustic cues and phonetic information.

As a young child, this speech thing was difficult for me to comprehend for some reason. You wouldn’t know it now, but I had a bit of a speech impediment. I spoke with a bit of a lisp. It sounded like a really feminine gay person. My grandpa tells me to try saying whatever word I had difficulty with over again, but this time with my teeth in, HA. Minor impediments like this can be easily reversed with enough practice and time. I remember my parents tried that “hooked on phonics” game, the commercials at the end would be these kids saying, “Hooked on phonics works for me!” That shit did not work for me, I think we tried it once, and I was done with that game. It’s mostly meant to help with reading comprehension…I guess?


Haptic perception is the process of recognizing objects through touch. James J. Gibson defined the haptic system as “The sensibility of the individual to the world adjacent to his body by use of his body.” It involves a combination of somatosensory perception of patterns on the skin surface (e.g., edges, curvature, and texture) and proprioception of hand position and conformation. People can rapidly and accurately identify three-dimensional objects by touch. This involves exploratory procedures, such as moving the fingers over the object’s outer surface or holding the entire object in hand. Haptic perception relies on the forces experienced during touch.


Taste (or, the more formal term, gustation) is the ability to perceive the flavour of substances, including, but not limited to, food. Humans receive tastes through sensory organs called taste buds or gustatory calyculi found on the tongue’s upper surface.  The human tongue has 100 to 150 taste receptor cells on each of its roughly ten thousand taste buds. There are five primary tastes: sweetness, bitterness, sourness, saltiness, and umami. Other tastes can be copied by combining these basic tastes. The recognition and awareness of umami is a relatively recent development in western foods.  The basic tastes partially contribute to the sensation and flavour of food in the mouth — other factors include smell, detected by the olfactory epithelium of the nose, texture, detected through various mechanoreceptors, muscle nerves, and temperature, detected by thermoreceptors. All basic tastes are classified as either appetitive or aversive, depending upon whether the things they sense are harmful or beneficial.

All Other Senses

Other senses enable perception of body balance, acceleration, gravity, the position of body parts, temperature, pain, time, and perception of internal senses such as suffocation, gag reflex, intestinal distention, the fullness of rectum and
urinary bladder, and sensations felt in the throat and lungs. In some cases, when people lose a limb, they experience what is called phantom limb syndrome. One can experience the sense of itching or pain where that limb once was or thinking they are moving that specific body part.

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