WOK Badge: Sense Perception Divya Rath

Divya Rath
Preeti Iyengar (badge leader), Harry Le, Katya Herbert
Jan 31-Feb 7, 2017
“WOK Badge: Sense Perception”

“The Journey of Deciphering Sense Perception through Cold Spaghetti”

1/31/2017: Chapter 5 was an interesting read. One of the things that was kind of confusing for me to comprehend at first was the idea that sense perception and “perception” are two somewhat radically different ideas. It was quite easy to lose focus on the idea that this module deals solely with the five senses, and is not about the way we perceive them. I’ll have to make sure not to lose sight of this fact as I try to earn this badge. I also found that distinguishing between sensation and interpretation was an “eye-opener” of sorts for me; it was interesting to see how that although everyone knows that we perceive information through our senses, not much thought goes into how we process and interpret those ideas. I guess that from this, I can conclude that perhaps perspective comes from the way we see the world.

2/1/2017: So after finally passing the badge quiz (which was more comprehensive than I thought it would be), our group has a tentative plan for demonstrating the idea of sense perception. Preeti came up with the idea of allowing people to be blindfolded. I liked this, and decided that after they are blindfolded, we should then have them taste certain things, feel unknown objects, distinguish sounds, smell different things and identify different sights and then have people decide whether identifying the object and idea relates to empiricism, common sense realism, scientific or other methods. For the structure of the presentation, ours is “conduct an experiment”.

2/1/2017 (2): I think that our group made some significant progress today in regards to our presentation. We changed the question we previously had since it ended up being quite broad. We have a clear-cut question, which reads as follows: To what extent can we trust our sense of touch? We’re planning to conduct an experiment in class with people in our class being the “subjects” of the experiment. There will a control group which will not be blindfolded, and a control group which will be blindfolded. we will give each group an opportunity to touch a certain object and taste a different object. Then, we will collect the results of what each person in the group believes the object/food to be and then lead a mini-discussion of why our hypothesis/question may have/have not been affected due to the presence or lack of vision, and how this relates to how we perceive and interpret sensory data. Goals for next class: Plan further; connect to questions, and Present Tuesday

2/3/2017: Today’s goals for our group included providing sufficient data and further planning our “experiment” presentation. Hopefully we are able to structure everything and rehearse the presentation, if needed. Our group was able to accomplish a structure for our experiment. At the beginning of the period, I said that I wanted to further plan our experiment and we needed to find out what mediums we were going to use. We decided on using spaghetti and a fuzzy ball, since we thought they would be things that could’ve been deciphered subjectively. A problem we ran into is that we found that we needed to make the experiment simpler; in order to this, we could possibly make it more specific, and limit it to one sense since we were initially testing both the sense of touch and the sense of taste. We can limit it to the sense of touch, since other groups are already basing their project on a “taste” test. Another problem that we ran into during our experiment was that we forgot to take into consideration that the way we might interpret something as “correct” may conflict with the idea of the subjects people actually perceive. How are the people we’re testing going to interpret it? That is something which we do not know, but hopefully we can use our own interpretation as a “baseline” truth and then see how everyone else’s perception of the object changes.

2/5/2017: I just finished watching a Isaac Lidsky TED Talk, about “How blindness can give you vision”. It really honed in on the aspects of vision being a subjective way of interpreting the world, which was a great perspective to have. He mentioned that “you are the creator of your reality”, which in my opinion, is something that is quite debatable. One can say that reality is the ultimate idea of truth, but if everyone has a different reality, then what exactly is truth? It might be possible to conclude that truth is subjective, but if it is, then what is reality? What are we perceiving? The definition of reality is the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. This brings me to one of the essential questions for sense perception: Are any of our perceptions (absolute) reality? If everyone is able to create their own reality, then is there even a "capital T truth" reality? In my opinion, that's a rhetorical question; there cannot be a capital T truth reality because it doesn't exist since everyone views reality in different ways due to differences in their sense perception. I agree with the statement that it's true that everyone creates their own reality; since we all see the world in different ways, it's possible that we all have our own perceptions of reality as well.

2/7/2017: My personal goal today is to gain a significant amount of knowledge from people’s presentations regarding sense perception. I hope that we are able to execute our presentation in a timely manner, and since Katya isn’t here, I do believe that we might have to modify our presentation a bit. Hopefully we are able to present and aid the class in understanding how we understood sense perception.

2/7/2017 (End Reflection Journal): As a whole, execution of the project did not go as well as I thought it would. We had counted on Katya for being here, and we essentially lost an extra set of hands without her. We had planned for her input data into a table in order to demonstrate our results more effectively, and we had also planned for her to collect the data as well since the other group members were going to be busy with timing the participants. Our powerpoint presentation malfunctioned out of no where as well, so I feel that that contributed to our poor presentation skills too. Our hypothesis was not proven correct, and many people did not guess incorrectly like we thought they would. The people who perceived the object without the blindfold had the same perception of it as the people who did not have the blindfold. There was also a problem with students in the experiment; I realize that they were confused for a majority of the time as well, and we as a group should have clarified it a bit further. I felt that we should have maybe used a better medium of asking instead of just using boiled spaghetti, ( we thought it would work because we thought a lot of people would perceive it as worms, or something slimy, for example) However, in regards to our results, this clearly did not occur. From this investigation, I concluded that although in this instance, people were proven to be able to trust their sense of touch to a great extent, perhaps in other instances the sense of touch would not prove to be as trustworthy due to external factors that might inhibit their interpretation of an idea. During the ending of the presentation, I made an observation regarding the failed hypothesis: not all experiments succeed. Although this investigation did not have the results I expected, hopefully others can use it as a guide for understanding the nuances of this way of knowing. In general, there were too many different elements going within the project for us to manage them all effectively and also be under our time limit. Hopefully in the next badge project I will be able to manage my time better and demonstrate a better presentation.

Knowledge Questions I ran into

What possibilities for knowledge are opened to us by our senses as they are? What limitations?

To what extent do our senses give us knowledge of the world in its true form?

To what extent can we rely on our sense of touch? (My knowledge question)

What role does observation play in the methods used to gain knowledge in various ways?

I chose these questions because they helped me investigate the process I went through when I went to create my badge project. With the first question, I was able to see how there are many different possibilities for acquiring and interpreting knowledge, and how this occurs due to different sense perceptions from different people. I encountered the second knowledge question while researching and reading the elective readings; through this question I was able to explore the idea of reality and ponder upon whether or not certain knowledge forms a person's own reality through their individual sense perceptions. The third knowledge question was the question I ended up investigating as a part of my badge project, and I ended up finding that one could trust their sense of touch to a certain extent, but there will always be a degree of uncertainty associated with this trust because nothing is ever truly trustworthy. The last knowledge question was considered when I analyzed my results from the experiment I conducted regarding sense perception. By observing people when touching and recording their results, I was able to deduce the above conclusion to the third knowledge question which was considered. These questions were all instrumental in helping me investigate sense perception, and aided me in my pursuit of knowledge regarding the subject.


Slides from Presentation

Data From Experiment

When comparing the people who had the blindfold with the people who didn't, it is clear to see that they had almost the same perception of the cold spaghetti. This is a clear indication that our hypothesis was invalid. With these results, we were forced to conclude that one can trust their sense of touch to a great extent. However, this was only one experiment; other investigations may have different results. This entails that people might have different sense perceptions of something, which would make the sense of touch not entirely trustworthy. There is no clear cut answer as to exactly how trustworthy the sense of touch is, but we can trust it to a certain extent, but we'll always have some degree of uncertainty as to how reliable it is.
Extension Proposal

In this TED Talk, a cognitive scientist, Donald Hoffman tries to answer a big question: Do we experience the world as it really is ... or as we need it to be? Throughout the course of this lecture, he ponders upon how our minds construct reality for us. During my investigation for this badge, I ran into a question that addresses something similar to this topic ( if we all have different ways of perception, then how do we know what reality, or truth, is?) I found this resource to be quite informative to answering my question. Since it definitely relates to the topic regarding sense perception, and it allows contains valuable information regarding the interpretation aspect of sense perception, I think it is a valuable resource to add to our "arsenal" of elective readings.

Inspiration for the Project

I personally got the idea for doing a touch test based on sense perception from this video. It was quite astonishing to see the massive reaction that this person had whenever he was blindfolded and made to touch this object. Although the man was only touching a teddy bear ( a harmless object) the fact that he was perceiving the information in a different manner than most people (since he was blindfolded) impacted his interpretation of what the object was and how he reacted towards his perception. I remember watching this video and being extremely shocked at the man's reaction; when we were assigned this project, this was the first thing I thought mimicking in order to demonstrate the different ways of perceiving something. That's in part to why we initially decided to use a fuzzy ball; we thought that the fuzzy object might be interpreted as a bug or some weird critter. Although we were not able to use the fuzzy object in our experiment due to time constraints, this video still played a major part in deciding how we did presented our project. This is why I thought it was necessary to include in this portfolio.

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