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Trusting our senses

  1. Jan 16, 2012 #1
    I read another thread that convinced me that our perception of color is the product of our brain alone and implies nothing intrsinsic about our actual physical surroundings. Wouldn't this be the same with our sense of smell and taste? How about touch and sound? Do we really perceive anything that accurately represents our physical surroundings?
     
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  3. Jan 16, 2012 #2

    Evo

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    Of course we do. Just because there can be very minute variations in perception, we all pretty much see, taste and hear the "same" things. I'm talking about people with normal senses.

    Ever go to a paint store and match paint examples? Ever hear a musical note and play it?
     
  4. Jan 16, 2012 #3

    apeiron

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    It is more accurate to say that the brain inteprets reality rather than represents it.

    So yes, all our sensations are in a sense a construction - a constructed view of reality rather than some direct and literal re-presentation of what exists "out there".

    But interpretations can be "accurate" in the sense they do the job they are designed to do.

    The gap between what is in our heads and what is out there is more obvious for colours than anything else. And this is because we know that we sample only a tiny amount of the available information to create our rich perceptual experience of colour.

    However the same principle applies to all sensation. In what way does an organic molecule have "a smell" as a real physical property? It just has the right shape to lock onto an olfactory receptor and allow us to deduce its original source as a rose. And we don't ever re-present that shape in any experiential sense.
     
  5. Jan 16, 2012 #4
    I agree that we all see, taste, and hear the same things. But is this because we are all perceiving a thruthful representation of our physical surroundings or because we all have a brain that similarly manifest our physical surroundings for us? Grass is not intrisically green, it simply reflects a certain wavelength of light that our brain receives and then manifests as something we call green. In the same sense, sugar is not intrinsically sweet.
     
  6. Jan 16, 2012 #5

    turbo

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    And before we project senses onto humans too much, let's consider how the animal world works. Bees have to have visual clues such as shapes and colors, or their hives would starve. There's a degree of standardization going on there, and common perception. It's not just the bees that rely on that common perception. Plant species would die out if their flowers didn't get visited by pollinators. Nature wouldn't work even at that level if there was not some commonality of perception.
     
  7. Jan 16, 2012 #6
    I agree. Color is really what made me question the accuracy of my subjective perception. It seems like monochromatic vision would be more accurate as it only reveals the shape and structure of our physical surroundings that we can then confirm as true with our sense of touch.
     
  8. Jan 16, 2012 #7

    apeiron

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    It would be only more "accurate" in the sense of feeling less interpreted. And when you see a ship on the horizon, how do you know it is a large object at a great distance, rather than some near-to object that is rather small?
     
  9. Jan 16, 2012 #8

    apeiron

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    Are you suggesting bees experience colours "just like we do"? That they construct the same qualitative experiencec? Or just that they can discriminate colours?
     
  10. Jan 16, 2012 #9
    I'm not sure. Is it because we have two eyes that enable depth perception?
     
  11. Jan 16, 2012 #10
    Either way I like how you said that our senses interpret reality rather than represent it. That's a good way to look at it and I'm glad I no longer look at my perception as an extremely accurate representation of the physical universe.
     
  12. Jan 16, 2012 #11

    Evo

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    Hello. Science forum.
     
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