Reliability of Sensory Perceptions
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Human senses are a complicated phenomenon that still seems to surprise and puzzle. Debates on whether sensory perceptions are reliable have been going on for years, since experiments demonstrate controversial results. However, there are enough data to claim that because communication is multimodal, there are deviations from normal perception of signals from external reality.
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One of the examples that is based on multimodality is the so-called MrGurk effect, which consists in overlapping between two or more senses. As a result, visual perception affects the audial one, which in its turn distorts the purity of perception and ends in an illusion of a different sound signal. So, when there is a mismatch between the lip movement and the actual sound, human mind tends to compensate the gap by distorting the objective information. Thus, sensory interaction is a factor that affects perception of environment considerably. (Stangor, 2010)
Another reason why sensory perception is not accurate lies in the fact that it is always subjective. Besides, speaking about nurtured experiences, they affect further reaction to environment significantly. Moreover, any experience is always closely related to emotions that it evokes. So, certain stimuli may cause an automatic reaction based on any of human senses or their combination. For example, two different people can interpret the same sound as pleasant or frightening based on their previous experiences and subconscious reactions. Thus, sensory perceptions can be inaccurate in many cases because it is always accompanied by emotional coloring. So, it is hard to avoid being iased when interpreting reality. For instance, a reaction to a stranger and a close person talking can be different and determined by personal history.
Speaking more about inaccuracy of sensory organs, it is worth saying that environment is too complex for a person to see the whole picture of it. This is why while people believe that their perception is correct, it is worth taking into account that human ability to capture signals of reality is quite limited. So, when seeing, a person usually sees the picture that is in the scope of his or her vision, while right behind the next house there is another reality. So, it would be fair to say that perception can be valid but only within this limited circle.
Philosophically, one speaks about the concept of “perceptual relativity”, which questions an ability to perceive reality in an objective way. Instead, it is suggested by some researchers that perception is a product of an observer’s reaction rather than an inherent characteristics of reality. The reason for treating it as objective is nothing like a convenient habit that helps people communicate and think of the world’s stability. As Bertrand Russell puts it,
"Although I believe that the table is really of the same colour all over, the parts that reflect the light look much brighter than the other parts, and some parts look white because of reflected light. I know that, if I move, the parts that reflect the light will be different, so that the apparent distribution of colours on the table will change. It follows that if several people are looking at the table at the samee moment, no two of them will see exactly the same distribution of colours, because no two can see it from exactly the same point of view, and any change in the point of view makes some change in the way the light is reflected...."( Forrester, 2002.)
However, an example of color blindness demonstrates that perception is relative indeed. The question is whether indeed a color blind person is less objective in his or her perception of reality, or it is just a matter of being in minority that is marginalized. Besides, speaking in broader terms, some animals have a different color palette than humans do. Does this mean that their senses are not reliable or that there is something wrong with people? The truth is in fact less radical than it might be taken the complexity of the issue. The concept of perceptual relativity reconciles contradictions, suggesting that senses are not illusive, they are just relative because they function as interaction of numerous other systems.
Thus, the issue of human senses is deeply rooted in social and genetic issues. Senses can be inaccurate because of each person’s bias regarding the perceived information. As a result, numerous subjective variants of reality emerge. Secondly, people’s perception of the world is not full, it covers environment only partially, so it cannot be reliable in all situations. It is based on multimodality, which in its turn distorts each organ’s individual perception, shaping a new one. Phenomena like McGurk effect prove this point of view. Finally, one can speak about relativity of perception because numerous equally reliable variants of this exist.
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