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Clif's Book World

Adventures from reading books captured within short reviews.

Sensation, Perception, and the Aging Process

Sensation, Perception, and the Aging Process - Francis B. Colavita These lectures provide a physiological approach to the study of psychology. In other words, the lectures explore what is going on inside our physical bodies that prompts various types of perception and behavior. It then describes how these change with the aging process. One significant observation made in the lectures is that old and young people live in different sensory worlds. And consequently, they also live in different perceptual worlds.

The first 12 lectures in this course expand on the difference between a sensation and a perception and elaborate on the concept of the perceptual world. The functioning of the visual, auditory, and cutaneous systems, and the changes in functioning associated with the aging process, are also discussed.

The last 12 lectures deal with the senses of pain, taste, smell, body orientation (balance), and "muscle feedback." Special categories of human perception, such as speech perception, face recognition, and person perception, are also be addressed. As in the initial 12 lectures, attention is paid to the role of the aging process.

Mr. Colavita was an older man when he gave these lectures, and his lectures are filled with many interesting stories, many from his own life. This makes the lectures especially interesting and easy to listen to. The lectures on the elusive nature of pain were particularly interesting. Unfortunately, Mr. Colavita died earlier this year (2009).

The following are some interesting facts that I picked up from this course:

1. A healthy human ear can sense the movement of an air molecule (sound wave) as small as half the width of a hydrogen atom. (In case you didn't know, that is very very small.)

2. Cats can do better. They can hear ultrasound and humans cannot.

3. But humans can see colors; cats cannot.

4. Dogs can smell things at concentrations 1,000 times weaker than humans can.

5. Bees can see ultraviolet light; humans cannot.

6. Likewise, some snakes can see infrared radiation; humans cannot.

7. Some behavioral differences among bees, cats, and humans are directly attributable to the fact that these species live in different sensory worlds while living in the same physical world.

8. The sensory differences and resulting differences in perception between young and old people explains the differences in behavior such as the willingness to take risks or roller coaster rides.

9. All sensory functions in humans degrade with age to some degree. However the learned perception that results from the senses can become wiser with age. For example, older people depend less on appearance than younger people when forming an opinion of others.

10. Another example of the difference between older and younger people is that older people are more interested in spicier foods because it compensates for they're having fewer taste receptors. This also explains why children, who have more taste receptors than adults, often prefer bland food.