Q. What is inter-sensory perception? Do you think that most of the human perceptions in real life are intersensory by nature? Discuss the biology and psychology involved in it. 20

Model answer outline:

The approach: As per the question, you should clarify the concept. Don’t bother to get a standard definition as the phenomena is well known. Substantiate your answer with examples and studies. Then go for its biology and psychology. Even basic book knowledge is enough to answer this question.

The Answer

inter sensory perception refers to a perception that involves sensory inputs from more than one channel like visual & auditory while watching a video, or visual & tactile while judging texture of a tile of Tajmahal. Such perceptions are just like perception from a single channel like a visual scene or a good music which are holistic, meaningful. The difference lies in the heterogeneous nature of multimodal perception. Synchronisation and meaningful organisation are the beauty…

Intersensory perceptions are most frequent in the real life than they are in lab like situations. watching a video for example involves imtersensory perception where inputs are not like a rough incompatible mixture but are completely fused, embedded , organised and holistic .
Gibson and Gibson in their research on perceptual learning noted that even if we focus on a single channel input like sound of a cowbird, the input from the visual senses complement our auditory perception. Visual cues complement loudness and clarity of the sound in the process of assessment if source of the sound is near or farther.
In lab experiments also, when visual stimuli were incompatible with the background sound, the perception of the scene by the subjects was distorted and incomplete.
Such intersensory stimulations biologically are synchronised partly by the Thalamus where all sorts of stimulations ( except olfaction) reach first, and then partly by the frontal cortex where stimulations finally arrive via their own dedicated cortex areas like visual, temporal cortex .. . There is genetic programming of our brains for this(. Recent neuroscience research & Gestalt school)
Psychologically, we are capable to do sensory/perceptual integration due to experience/learning. A kathak artist , due to her experience and training, is better in judging a performance by a person if what she said and what she showed through facial expressions were well synchronised or not. A partially deaf person is reported to infer meaning of the conversation from the movement of the leaps and other body language . With time, heir she becomes more competent in this.

By Arun Kumar

Mentor, Beautiful Mind-IAS