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What is sense perception and can we rely on our senses as ways of knowing

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We rely on our senses in order to interact with the world around us. Sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell are the 5 senses that make us and allow us to function as normal human beings. In fact without them, or one of these senses we are considered “disabled”.

There are several ways to define sense perception. (noun)
1. Any of the faculties of sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch by which the body perceives an external stimulus.
2. A feeling that something is the case.
3. (sense of) awareness or appreciation of or sensitivity to: a sense of direction.
4. a sane and practical attitude to situations.
5. reason or purpose; good judgment: there’s no sense in standing in the rain.
6. a meaning of a word or expression or the way in which a word or expression can be interpreted.

In simple terms, sensory perception is the state of perceiving one’s surroundings based on data collected from one’s surrounding. One’s sensory perception can greatly effect what someone knows and how. For starters, sense perception allows for cognition. Cognition is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. In order to acquire knowledge, one must experience it. This is done through the senses. Whether you are a visual or sensory learner, all of this needs to be done through senses. Your senses are what allow you to create memories, communicate and learn.

Unfortunately, we cannot rely on our senses as a way of knowing. Memories are not as reliable as we believe because they can easily alter over a specific time period. This can especially be seen in short and long term memories. A short term memory will be forgotten much quicker and therefore without recalling it, we make the memory quite vague. Regarding long term memories, although someone may remember a long term memory very well, many details and specific events may not be as clear as they were when actually experienced. As a memory is just a recall of an event that happened, it cannot be fully recreated in ones mind. It is also difficult to judge whether our memories are reliable due to the fact that the memories were created from our personal point of view, and someone who may have experienced the same thing at the same time may see it in a different light. Memories can also be false. The way someone originally recalled a memory can quickly alter depending on their entourage. Another withness of a certain scene can easily impose and alter one’s memory depending on things they can say about the event.

In order to support these claims, three psychology experiments/studies will be used. The first experiment is that of Barlett 1932. The aim of the Barlett Study was to investigate how culture can effect memory, leading to distortion, as well as how memory is reconstructed after a certain period of time/repetition. Throughout this experiment, 20 non native American participants were told a native American story and asked to tell another participant, who would then tell another and so on. As the participants were not from native American origins and were not comfortable with some of the terms used, the participants altered language used and shortened the native American story in order for it to fir their cultures. In this case, the study adds to our understanding of schemas and their role in the recalling of memory. In this case, the story was altered so it would fit their culture, which in turn did not make the story fully correct.

Another experiment is that of Brandsford and Johnson 1972, & Glanzer and Cunitz 1966. Glanzer and Cunitz (1966) conducted an experiment that removed the recency effect. Two groups of people were used. The first group was asked to repeat the list of words directly after being stated/showed to them while the second group were asked to recall the words 30 seconds later. The participants who were asked to repeat the sequence of words right after showed fewer difficulties remembering the words as they were placed in their short term memory and directly sited. On the other hand, the participants who recited the sequence of words later spent the 30 seconds counting backwards in threes. This in turn meant that the information had lower chances or remaining in their short-term memory and therefore explains why there was a smaller percent of words recalled. This study can be explained
with the multi store schema, as there was an input, that lead to the short-term memory and due to lack of rehearsal remained there.

Bransford and Johnson (1972) investigated memory in a completely different manner. In this experiment, two separate groups of people to read a paragraph. For one group, they were only shown a paragraph whereas the second had the same but with a title. Those who were not given a title found the text quite confusing and hard to understand while for the others it made more sense. The results showed that those with a title had a better understanding of the text when asked to recall it. The presence of a title enabled them to better process the information given, resulting in better connections within the memory. The use of this experiment showed the importance of schemas when making connections and understanding specific things. In this case the title was the schema. In the end, regarding memory, we cannot rely on our senses. On the other hand, there are many other aspects that the ways of knowing covers. These are emotion, imagination, and reason. Emotions are a natural instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationships with others. There are 8 main emotions. These are, anger, fear, worry, embarrassment, guilt, excitement, joy and sadness. Each emotion must be triggered by something.

For example, if someone is to witness a heartbreaking scene in a movie, he/she is likely to express sadness. Similarly, if someone is to hear a song they greatly enjoy, excitement and joy would be expressed. Interestingly enough, decision-making and emotions are highly connected. Emotions are a strong driver. Decisions are generally bsed on emotions and personal feelings towards a certain situation. Unfortunately, although emotions are a strong driver, they can lead to our downfall as they can get the best of someone’s rational aspect. Therefore, there are pros and cons on the effect of emotions towards decision-making. Imagination is the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses. Although it is the forming of new ideas not present to the senses, it is influenced by one’s senses. This means, something that has been experienced and that has affected a certain individual may be a factor in his/her imagination.

Finally, reason is another way of knowing that is affected by our senses. Reason is a cause, explanation, or justification for an action or event. One will reason about something based on past experiences. Experiences take place and are remembered due to our senses. Therefore, the way in which someone reasons is greatly influences by one’s sense. If someone has seen a traumatic event, it will effect their reasoning regarding how to deal with, for example, death. In the end, the question of “can we rely on sense perception as a way of knowing” varies depending on the ways of knowing we are referring to. Regarding memory, our senses cannot be trusted as distortion can occur as well as false memories. Regarding emotions and imagination, senses play a key role, and therefore can be relied on. Finally, regarding reason, although it isn’t similar by definition to memory, one’s way in which they reason can easily be altered by external stimuli, such as other individuals, so on personal perspective, cannot be trusted.

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