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Limits and Differences of Perception
We all sense the environment differently
No two people see colors the same, nor hear the same sounds and music, nor small the same scents and odors and yet the profound truth is that we are able to communicate so that there is general agreement on what is red or blue, what is a pleasant scent or what good music and pleasant sounds are. Further, we have some proof that people perceive differently. We know to a limited extent that people perceive red differently and yet can readily agree what is red among one another, that is, unless they are artists who appreciate the broad gamut of colors included in the family of reds such as vermilion and scarlet. Then there are people who are colour blind and this can be established scientifically from individual to individual in colour blind tests.
In a darkened scene, the average person can understand to a limited extent what color blindness is all about as color vision falls off in dim lighting. Then the various types of artificial light also changes color perception. Under those parking lot sodium lights, people's lips will change from the normal pinkish color to a dull gray blue, all because of the limited spectrum of available reflected light. Incandescent and fluorescent lights also produce color perception change. Try this with a multicolored swatch under different lights from artificial sources and sunlight and you will find dramatic changes from one to another. These are all experiments that anyone can perform within limits of individual perception of course. These are the personal differences in color perception and perception differed from person to person.
So why do we agree on what red is and stop at a red light? This is something that is passed on from parent to child when the mother or father teach the child what various colors are by the name associated with them in a linguistic manner. Amazingly, this extends across languages as language is a symbolic code we use to describe the world to one another. It is entirely possible that the child perceives the same colors completely differently than the parent and yet they can both agree on what is red and what is not red or any other color. Then there are the limits of vision, such as peripheral vision, which is good for seeing motion, and the blind spot that can hide a multiple of hazards. Science has demonstrated that we see only a small part of the electromagnetic spectrum. We can feel infra red radiation, but cannot see it. We can devise cameras and night vision goggles that do see it, but to this we are all blind except for the heat sensation of a strong infra red source.
Hearing is the same way. In fact, many people hear out of one ear better than the other, so a personal difference of perception can be experienced. Various tests have been devised that can tell us how sensitive our hearing is and what range we can hear and this differs from person to person. Musically inclined usually have much more acute hearing sensitivity than non musical people. They can distinguish the subtlety of notes and tone to which the rest of us are deaf. It is also known that the blind often hear far better than those of us who can see, due to the brain compensating for the lack of sight. This difference of hearing is also found across the species, where some have far more acute hearing than people. As for sight, we have been able to augment our hearing with technology that allows us to hear sounds normally out of our hearing range.
Seeing what the eyes alone fail to see
The sense of smell also differs from individual to individual. Those who handle scents, flowers and those who cook usually have heightened scent perception. They can distinguish the subtleties of scents that the rest of us would seem to have blocked sinuses in comparison. Many people with this ability heightened, end up working in some career where this ability is used foremost in the execution of their job. There is definite proof that different people have this sense in different proportion as some can detect scents that others cannot and visa-verse. Many animals have a much better sense of odor detection than people and we have learned to use this skill in various ways to augment our lack of it. Among animals that we use for this skill, are bloodhounds and other dogs trained to detect scents that are out of our range. They can track hunted animals or people by scent alone, or scope out hidden drugs and bombs, all of which human beings cannot do. This is a useful skill that is used for a variety of reasons.
Our understanding of the world environment is mediated through our senses. As we differ in our perceptions, so does our world view. There are individual and cultural differences and this can sometimes lead to disagreements. How different we are, is something that we can appreciate when interacting with other people from around the world and even through time.
Insects see wavelengths humans cannot and flowers look different to them
- BBC News - An insect's-eye view of flowers
Professor Iain Stewart uses an ultra-violet camera to reveal the markings some flowers have developed to attract pollinating insects.