Introduction: Sensation and Perception

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

Sensation occurs when sensory receptors detect sensory stimuli. Perception involves the organization, interpretation, and conscious experience of those sensations. All sensory systems have both absolute and difference thresholds, which refer to the minimum amount of stimulus energy or the minimum amount of difference in stimulus energy required to be detected about 50% of the time, respectively. Sensory adaptation, selective attention, and signal detection theory can help explain what is perceived and what is not. In addition, our perceptions are affected by a number of factors, including beliefs, values, prejudices, culture, and life experiences.


  • 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