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Sensation versus Perception

[3] Before we examine our mind’s ability to perceive, it is important to understand how we acquire perception in the first place. Sensation starts during the embryonic era, as our sense organs develop. While they help us to cope and coordinate with physical reality, the accuracy of their intakes is a matter of debate.

It has been shown that tactile sense begins about seven weeks after gestation and gradually develops until the fourth month of fetus life. Babies start to receive sound stimulus by fourteen weeks of embryonic life. Our sense of sight develops before birth as well (for example, babies in the womb react to a flash of light to mother's abdomen). By the time of birth, vision is well advanced, although not yet perfect. The fetus’s taste buds are formed at fourteen weeks, demonstrated by studies that show the fetus has a definite preference for sweetness in amniotic fluid.

A fetus has a virgin brain. At the beginning there is just reception, meaning the stimuli sense organs merely notice and observe; they do not distinguish or interpret. Stimuli cannot be interpreted yet because of a lack of previous experiences to form a contextual framework. Recognition comes by repetition of the same stimulus. Gradually, the baby can differentiate various sensations as favorable or deterrent.

Newborns do not fully understand space, and it is common for them to grasp for objects that are out of reach. Complete perception of space develops later. Objects are unfamiliar to the virgin brain as well.

During the embryonic stage and continuing to beyond the first year of life, a baby slowly develops an impression about the nature of material objects. If we define time as the product of accumulated memories, then at the beginning, time does not have any meaning for an embryo either.

As the baby experiments with the outside world, it gradually builds a perception from its environment. This early conceptualization is the ground for building a preliminary logic, which the baby then uses to analyze its surroundings. It uses dreaming as a tool to relate the data it receives and to build perceptions. These perceptions help build the framework for cognition in the future. Storytelling and dreaming are the act of organizing and refining these early perceptions from the environment. This is how we form our logic.

Language and mathematics (and numbers in general), two very important tools to build our perception of reality, are learned gradually during the first two years and refined in the years after. Immanuel Kant, Karl Weierstrass, and later on Albert Einstein believed that mathematics is pure creation of the human mind. Friedrich Nietzsche believed that all of logic and the whole of mathematics are man-made fictions. [4]

Finally, a sense of self gradually develops, whereby the child begins to distinguish himself from his mother, something newborns do not do.

The above concepts are gradually built inside the brain as a result of the data that the organs receive and the brain integration processes.However, our interpretation of this data may not exactly represent the actual data, and it is subject to error. This casts doubt on our perceptual system’s ability to conceptualize data and produce an objective reality. Motion pictures make a good analogy. Individual objects in discrete pictures are perceived as moving objects. In addition to limited abilities of our visual organs to distinguish the fast exchanging pictures, brain's integration process and perception creation out of partial clues is also a major factor. Please note that in quantum mechanics view, the universe is made of discrete elements (such as quanta of matter, space or time), whereas our classical perception of the world sketches a continuous and homologous surroundings in front of our eyes.

David Chamberlain, PhD, Cesarean Voices, “Babies Are Conscious,” 
Menas Kafatos and Robert Nadeau, The Non-local Universe New York Oxford 
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