General Sensory Physiology, Psychophysics
As an introduction to the particular aspects of sensory physiology treated in this book, we shall consider the subject of “general sensory physiology” — the principles underlying all sensory perceptions. Such generalization is both possible and useful, not least because the different sense organs very much resemble one another, both in their organization and operation and in their connections to the central nervous system (CNS). On the other hand, in studying human sensory perception one encounters the problem of subjectivity. That is, environmental stimuli and the respective responses of our sense organs correspond to statements by the subject about his sensations and perceptions. Even muscle physiology, for example, has a subjective, “psychological” side. The subject identifies himself with certain movements of his limbs; he “wills” them or “expresses himself” with them. But by comparison, the high-level mental aspects of sensory physiology appear far richer and more fascinating. We experience our sensations as highly personal events, on which our moods depend; in surroundings from which sensory stimuli have been excluded — in a state of “sensory deprivation” — we become mentally unstable and ill. A human being, then, is “nothing other than the sum of his experiences” (D. Hume). Indeed, certain philosophical schools have been so impressed by the strong subjective component in all sensory experience as to maintain that only the subject exists — that the “environment” is a product of the mind. The general psychophysical problem, which so forcibly confronts us in sensory physiology, cannot be solved by the natural scientist, at least not yet.
KeywordsTest Stimulus Stimulus Intensity Stimulus Duration Sense Organ Operant Conditioning
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