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The Link Between Sensation and Perception

Sensation and perception are two distinct processes that are closely linked. The senses constitute the stimuli that the body’s sensory receptors detect from the surrounding environment. On the other hand, perception describes a mental process where the perceived cues are selected, organized, and interpreted into meaningful patterns (Byrne, 2018). Although people may have the same senses about a particular issue, their perceptions may vary because the brain interprets the stimuli differently depending on individuals’ learning, memory, emotions, and expectations.

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Sensation refers to a physical process whereby the human body learns and understands the surrounding environment. It leverages sensory receptors which are found in specialized organs including the mouth, ears, eyes, nose, and skin (Hearst, 2019). These specialized neurons correspond to the five known senses – vision, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. The sensory receptors receive different kinds of stimuli from a range of sources and transform them into the electrochemical signals of the nervous system (Byrne, 2018). Thus, sensation helps people learn about the world around them, as well as the condition of the internal body system.

Perception is a psychological process that involves interpreting the information collected from the environment. The interpretation affects the way people interact with the world around them. The process of perception involves both bottom-up and top-down factors (Goldstein & Brockmole, 2016). The bottom-up approach makes use of the fact that perception depends on the sensory system. A top-down process, on the other hand, involves the interpretation of the sensations concerning the available knowledge, experience, and thoughts (Byrne, 2018). It starts with the most general details and narrows toward the most specific ones.

Although sensation and perception are two different processes, they depend on each other and the method of feeling leads to perception. During sensation, a receptor is activated at the level of the stimulus. During perception, the stimuli are processed into meaning patterns that involve awareness (Dretske, 2015). Consequently, perception depends on the body’s senses; however, the body does not perceive all sensations. This kind of sensory is known as sensory adaptation. Some factors affect both perception and sensation, and they include attention, which plays an essential role in what is sensed and what is perceived. Perceptions are also affected by several factors such as personal beliefs, cultural norms and values, and past experiences (Goldstein & Brockmole, 2016). Therefore, people perceive things in different ways based on many personal factors.

One of the most controversial experiences that human beings believe in through the various senses is reality. Many people hold a unique set of beliefs that significantly influence the way they think and feel about themselves, others, and the world around them. What a person believes can change his or her reality. That is, what an individual believes may eventually turn out to be the truth (Dretske, 2015). From the judgment made when crossing a road to trusting the existence of some microscopic items, it is believed to be a reality, but that is far from the truth (Byrne, 2018). Research shows that human beings are only capable of sensing just enough to make them survive (Goldstein & Brockmole, 2016). Such sensations translate to conclusions about the real world around us, and this constitutes perceptual experiences.

Moreover, the perceptual experience determines the interpretation of the state of the world around us. According to Dretske (2015), this determination is only made possible by the fact the brain intends to know only those things that are within the surrounding environment. In some circumstances, some of the inferences drawn by the mind are incorrect. Such inaccuracies are due to anomalies in human perceptual experiences. We can, therefore, record these anomalies to determine the perceptual apparatus rather than relying entirely on reality (Goldstein & Brockmole, 2016). Sometimes errors experienced in making judgments can also be persistent and vary from person to person. Such mistakes are always termed illusions and often influence how people make decisions on the various aspects of life. Some experiences do not positively give a reasonable interpretation of real life, but they play a vital role in how people make resolutions in the world.

Each individual has his or her way of perceiving issues. The sensation towards a given factor or change in the surrounding may have similar effects on people but each one’s perception will differ (Dretske, 2015). The distinctions in perceptions are mostly brought by the kind of knowledge, emotions, and experiences about the issue. One of the habits I would not say I like to experience is living together with people who smoke and drink excessively. The smell of alcohol and the effect of smoke from cigarettes make me uncomfortable. When I interact with such individuals, the only option I may have is to avoid them. Behaving so leads to prejudice and discrimination against those who have chosen to live the way they like.

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Morality is also another aspect of life that is viewed from different perspectives. A particular society may consider a given habit normal, but another one may see it as an act of inhumanity and against its norms and values (Dretske, 2015; Goldstein & Brockmole, 2016). Some communities are intolerant to certain types of behaviors such as same-sex relationships. Other advanced societies may look at it as a standard and allow their members to engage in any relationship they like. Interacting with such individuals may be a challenging task to me so I often choose to avoid them. Other people in the same society may consider it an act of discrimination and prejudice.

Public interactions and communications are some of the situations that require the highest-level decency. According to Goldstein and Brockmole (2016), this cleanliness should range from the body to the language used in such fora. If I am in such a function and one of the attendees happens to be having a smelling body or has bad breath, then I would not be able to stay there. In such circumstances, many people will look at me as being discriminatory. People perceive situations in life differently and never feel that their actions might hurt others.

In conclusion, sensation and perception are two important processes that enable humans to learn and understand the world around them. They occur simultaneously as sensory receptors detect stimuli from different sources, which are then organized, interpreted, and experienced consciously during the perception process. However, although people experience the same senses towards given stimuli, their perception of the same phenomenon may differ considerably. Prior experiences and personal values and beliefs influence how we interpret various issues in the world. Such incidents include looking at everything being a reality and other anomalies that may distort the real happenings in the environment around.


Byrne, A. (2018). Perception and sensation. Oxford University Press.

Dretske, F. (2015). Perception versus conception: The goldilocks test. In J. Zeimbekis & A. Raftopoulos (Eds.), The Cognitive penetrability of perception: New philosophical perspectives (pp. 163–173). Oxford University Press.

Goldstein, E. B., & Brockmole, J. (2016). Sensation and perception (10th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Hearst, E. (Ed.). (2019). The first century of experimental psychology. Routledge.

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