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Seeing Perceiving. 2011;24(5):485-511. doi: 10.1163/187847511X588773. Epub 2011 Sep 6.

Insight into sight, touch, taste and smell by multiple discriminations from norm.

Author information

  • 1School of Psychology, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK.

Erratum in

  • Seeing Perceiving. 2011;24(6):639.


The paper presents an innovative theory of perception of multiple features across and within modalities. Each step is illustrated by an aspect of data from diverse experiments. The theory is that a template or norm of previously configurated features is used to perceive an object in a situation, such as consuming an item of food or drink. A mouthful usually stimulates sight first and then touch, taste and smell, with thermal, irritative, kinaesthetic and auditory patterns often also involved. The visual information also typically includes meanings of words, numbers and pictures. Attended sensory and symbolic features of the situation are integrated by the individual into a multidimensional distance from the norm. Dimensions are calibrated in units of the response's discrimination between levels of each stimulus feature. This approach to perceptual performance is expounded for sensed and/or conceived visual features of drinks and foods, and their tasted or smelt constituents, or felt and heard cracking during a bite. In addition, the conceptual process that informs an analytical judgment can influence another judgment. Applying the concept to a stimulus forms a descriptive process. A concept may also be applied to another concept or to a description, giving greater depth of meaning to an integrative judgment. Furthermore, a description can be applied to an environmental source of stimulation, creating a percept that presumably is conscious, whereas unconceptualised stimulation may be subconscious.

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