Introduction to Sensation and Perception

What you’ll learn to do: differentiate between sensation and perception

1890, Portrait of Félix Fénéon, Opus 217. Against the Enamel of a Background Rhythmic with Beats and Angles, Tones, and Tints, oil on canvas, 73.5 x 92.5 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York City. Man in a suit holding a top hat is reaching out with a flower in his hand. The background is multicolored swirls.

Sensation and perception are two separate processes that are very closely related. Sensation is input about the physical world obtained by our sensory receptors, and perception is the process by which the brain selects, organizes, and interprets these sensations. In other words, senses are the physiological basis of perception. Perception of the same senses may vary from one person to another because each person’s brain interprets stimuli differently based on that individual’s learning, memory, emotions, and expectations.


  • Define sensation and explain its connection to the concepts of absolute threshold, difference threshold, and subliminal messages
  • Discuss the roles attention, motivation, and sensory adaptation play in perception
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