Perception and the Conditioned Reflex

Perception and the Conditioned Reflex

Perception and the Conditioned Reflex

Perception and the Conditioned Reflex

Excerpt

By perception is meant that action of the analyser mechanism which reflects the activity of external agencies. Thus "perception" denotes the process of reception in the wide sense of the word. Sensory processes can and should be analysed as manifestations of the combined conditioned and unconditioned reflex activity of analysers, resulting from the action of certain well-defined stimuli (Pavlov, 1949).

The study of perception as a reflex act of adaptation opens new horizons in the field of sensory processes which so far have not been explored by classical sensory organ psycho-physiology. It will suffice to point out, for example, that the perception of a stimulus depends on what signal significance this stimulus has for the organism. Where man is concerned, there is also the problem of the effect on perception of the verbal stimulations contained in verbal instructions (Gershuni, 1957). This approach to the processes of perception also provides an opportunity for detailed analysis of the structure of the conditioned reflex are and, in particular, of its afferent limb.

When one is investigating the reflex processes on which the perception of a conditioned stimulus is based, one must also consider perception of the reinforcement, and the specific reactions of the body (the principle of return afferentiation, Anokhin, 1949, 1955). Both afferent and efferent limbs of the conditioned reflex will then be seen to consist of a number of individual reflex acts combined together into a single system with adaptional significance for the body as a whole. This approach can be contrasted with "molar" theories, which have been gaining ground recently and which confine themselves to the examination of integrated behaviour (Hull, 1943, 1952).

In this book an attempt is made to interpret the results of such an investigation on man. It consists of three main parts. The first, which is mainly a review of the literature, also discusses the connexions between the reflex processes taking place in the analysers and the processes of perception. Special attention is given to the parts played by orienting, adaptation and defensive reflexes in the control of sensitivity.

Simultaneous polygraphic recording is used because of the complex structure of the somatic reactions to external stimuli employed as indices of the sensitivity and reactivity of analysers. Some general principles governing these reactions are considered in an attempt to standardize such measurements.

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