Sense perception II

In continuation of the previous lecture on sense perception:

Opening: 15 minutes

We saw, when followed the previous lecture, that sense perception might be researched by position not just of one science but a few of them.  In our TOK lectures about sense perception we  investigate a role and a power of it from positions of philosophy (historical approach), anthropology (cultural approach), psychology (biological and social approach). Language also plays an important role in understanding of meaning of perception. So, we use multi – perspective analysis in order to discover as much as it is possible cognitions about said and to discover new layers of knowledge.   We also learn that sense perception plays a great role in construction, not just of our personal knowledge but also of experiental and shared knowledge too. 

We know that we possess eight senses which are: visual sense (sight), auditory sense (hearing), olfactory sense (smell), gustatory sense (taste), cutaneous sense (touch) but we possess kinesthetic sense (awareness of one’s own body movements and dimensions), vestibular sense (balance) and organise sense (‘call of nature’, hunger, thirst, etc.) too. (Dann, Michael, How many senses are there, 2013)

 We know that as the facts from biology. Or human anatomy. But in TOK we learn to see things from other perspective. Then we notice that our senses be might human, variable, actively selective and interpretative also. 

Before we step in the next part of a class, we will watch a video about the art of body balance.


Development: 60 minutes

How do we see colours? Do all people see colors in the same way? What kind of knowledge we would get if see, for instance, some known object in a colour different the the usual one? Would it be the same knowledge? To what extent would prior personal and experiental knowledge play role in a new cognition? 

  • to ask students to try to find answers to questions above mentioned . When they finish this activity, the one starts with a question: To what extent we believe that our senses are reliable?

For an introduction in this part of a class I raise the question: What is the way we perceive colours? Then students introduce the two theories that explain the way eyes detect primary colours.

According to Trichromatic theory – Young (1802) & von Helmholtz (1852), the eye detects 3 primary colours: red, blue, & green. Other colors can be derived by combining these three.  This finding led to the hypothesis that normal colour vision is based on the activity of three types of receptors, each with a different peak sensitivity.

Opponent process theory is, de facto, a continuation to the discovery exposed in Trichromatic theory. According to Ewald Hering, who established Opponent process theory, people see colours in two systems, or mechanisms, a blue – yellow mechanism and a red-green mechanism.



  • opponentpic.jpg


In continuation:

To what extent our sense perception might be influenced by different social or biological conditions

Perhaps we want to experience something. There is a possibility then that our emotions might affect our sense perception. How many times did someone order something of clothes from some web page? And, when it finally arrived, what you see was faraway from your expectations.


Imagine that you are left somewhere in a desert, without water and food. After two days of survival without nothing to help you in that situation, it might happen that you collapse. While collapsing on your knees, suddenly you see an oasis just beneath the next sand hill.  And you decide to get up again and start to walk, as fast as you can in sand. You approach to the next sand hill. There is – nothing but sand. It was an illusion of your mind.

I use this picture in order to explain to my students that expectations or, possible, previous experiences might affect our sense perception in different situations.



impossible staircase.jpg


impossible triangle

M C Ecsher.jpg

According to Gestalt theory, people, when think about something, some particular object, they usually apply the overall concept of  the object in process of thinking about it. If I think about an apartment, for instance, it is probable that I would not think separately about doors, windows, floors or carpets in the apartment. Instead of that I will have a full picture of imagined apartment on my mind.  Then, if I try to compare components that make an apartment as whole, I might realize that organized whole is perceived differently that its individual parts.

Translated from German in English, Gestalt means “organized whole”. At the beginning of XX century Gestalt theorists were the first group of psychologists who examined systematically perceptual organization.

How do people with certain disabilities perceive the world?

Deaf children 

According to statistics, over 90% of deaf children have hearing parents. These children are often delayed in language and complex make-believe play. Deaf infants and toddlers seem to master sign language in much the same way and at about the same pace that hearing children master spoken language. Deaf 10-month-olds often “babble” in signs: they produce signs that are meaningless but resemble the tempo and duration of real signs.

Autistic people 

Olga Bogdashina says in her research that  autistic people have unusual (from non-autistic point of view) sensory-perceptual experiences. Autistic people may be hyper- or hyposensitive, they might feel fluctuation between different ‘volumes’ of perception, difficulty interpreting a sense, etc. Experiences of these people are based on real experiences,   but they may be interpreted differently. Olga Bogdashina raises very important questions in frames of TOK. She asks, “How can we know that only our ‘perceptual version’ of the world is correct and theirs is wrong? ”  In words of Brad Rand, ” autistic people can’t help seeing and hearing the ‘wrong thing’, and they do not even know that they see or hear the wrong thing. Normal” connections between things and events do not make sense for them, but may be overwhelming, confusing and scary.”

  • Autistic people use a therm “Neurologically Typical” (NT) to describe non – autistic people (Autism Network International).
  • They experience the whole world different then us, “Neurologically Typical” people. It does not mean that their world is less worth then our, on the contrary! Autism colours every sensation, perception and then emotions and thoughts autistic people.  To raise a question here, how ethical is to expect from autistic people to behave in accordance with  perspectives of “Neurologically Typical” people?

Closure: 15 minutes

In what way we perceive extrasensory perception?

A discussion on extrasensory perception

Meaning: The ability to perceive something without ordinary sensory information. This has not been scientifically demonstrated yet.

Three types of ESP:

Telepathy – Mind-to-mind communication

Clairvoyance – Perception of remote events

Precognition – Ability to see future events


Dombrowski, Eileen, Rotenberg, lena, Back, Mimi, Theory of Knowldge Course Companion (2013).

Wade, C., & Tavris, C. (2002). Invitation to Psychology, 2nd Ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Kassin, S. (2001). Psychology, third edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Dunn, Michael, How many senses are there, 2013

Different sensory experiences – Different sensory world


Perceptual illusions and brain models

25 Mind-Twisting Optical Illusion Paintings By Rob Gonsalves


Theories of Colour Vision



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