Aspects of Psychology

Posted: November 27th, 2013

Aspects of Psychology





Aspects of Psychology


Generally, adaptation has been perceived as getting used to a particular environment when a certain aspect is introduced to it. However, in psychology, sensory adaptation also known as neural adaptation has been described as the change in the response and feeling that a person gets immediately when they come into contact with a particular object (Culler, 2011). Usually, man has five senses and they all serve their purpose towards enabling differentiation of different feelings. When used, they create a feeling to a person, which after a reasonable period, changes since the person gets used to it. For instance, light may be introduced to a dark room abruptly so that the eye becomes somehow strained and unable to bear the light. However, after sometime, it becomes accustomed to the light such that the person does not notice the difference. The aspect of becoming comfortable in the position to an extent one does not notice the initial reaction is known as adaptation. All the senses are equally active in serving this purpose and are all connected to the brain in order to make this possible. Biologically, the concept of sensory adaptation is regarded as response and reaction of the nerves to stimuli and changes in the environment. To facilitate a better understanding of the concept, various experiments can be conducted.

Experiment One:

Process: Fingers were rubbed lightly onto sandpaper that had a very rough surface for around two minutes to record the feeling. The same fingers were rubbed onto a piece of paper for the same period to record the feeling and the changes if any.

Results: on the sandpaper, the fingers felt a bit rough, which concluded that it was a rough surface and on a scale of 1 to 7, it could rank at 5. However, after continuous feeling of the sand paper, the rough feeling on the fingers was no longer as much as it was initially. On the other hand, when feeling the smooth paper, the fingers immediately felt the smoothness of the surface. However, after doing this continuously over the two minutes period, the feeling of smoothness was no longer as pronounced.

Experiment Two:

Process: Two cups of water were prepared with sugar added to one, as the other remained fresh. Both were sipped at different times beginning with the sugar water and swished in the mouth for a few seconds. The fresh water was sipped immediately after the sugar water and it was not swallowed.

Results: When the sugary water was sipped, the tongue sensed a sweet feeling immediately, which disappeared slowly until it could no longer be felt as much though it was still there. On the other hand, immediately after sipping the fresh water, the sugary feeling disappeared completely and the tongue could taste fresh water. However, the longer it stayed the faster the feeling disappeared.

Experiment Three:

Process: Three bowls with water of different temperatures – hot, cold and mixture (lukewarm) were introduced. The right hand was placed against the bowl with cold water and the left against the one with hot water. After three minutes, the hands were lifted at the same time and dipped into the middle bowl with lukewarm water.

Results: There was instant cold and hot feeling sensed on the right and left hand respectively, which became accustomed a few minutes later so that they could not be noted. However, when they were dipped into the lukewarm water, the right hand became abruptly warm, as the left felt abruptly cooled. After sometime though, they were all warm and eventually, they could not clearly sense the feeling.

Relationship between Experiments and Sensory Adaptation

The experiments above are a clear indication of how the human system works and especially the nerves in responding to particular stimuli. Before one can sense any feeling, whether cold, hot or bright, information has to be sent to the brain that registers the feeling. The system from the physical senses to the brain works very fast such that the response is almost abrupt. According to Starr and McMillan (2010), there are receptors in the human body that act like pathways to the brain in response to any physical stimuli. The same is realized in the three experiments where the concept of sensory adaptation is explained. First, we realize that in all the three cases, the feeling is almost instant and after sometime, it fades away such that it is no longer evident. Starr and McMillan (2010) argued that, “… the frequency of nerve impulses (how often they occur in a given period of time) slows or stops even when the stimulus continues …” (Pg 267). Where the results show that the feeling is no longer felt and that the stimulus does not record the same impact as when it came to contact with the person, sensory adaptation is believed to come into play.

In the experiments done, the sensory receptors involved are the hands, tongue and hands respectively. In the case of the hands, the same process is applied despite the difference in the occurrences. In experiment one and three, the hands are the sensory receptors and as argued by Starr and McMillan (2010), all receptors have the capability of converting the stimulus that has just been introduced to a nerve impulse. When in the form of nerve impulses, the information is carried straight to the brain so that it will interpret the feeling that will then be registered by the individual. In this case, the nerves in the hand carry the rough and smooth, cold and hot feeling respectively, which is then read by the brain to interpret what has happened. In experiment two, the tongue, which senses the taste, is the sensory receptor. When the tongue comes into contact with the water, a specific part senses sweetness and when the water reaches that point, the stimulus is converted to impulse, which the nerves carry to the brains. However, we realize that the hot and cold bowls are touched at the same time. Culler (2011) clarifies that the brain has the necessary tools that distinguish between the senses and the path followed. Therefore, the brain interprets the information and the person, through the sensory organ can detect the feeling.

Importance of Adaptation from Evolutionary Perspective

Adaptation has been proven important from an evolutionary perspective. When we look at the concept of evolution, the idea of natural selection comes to mind. Humans and other creatures are believed to have been in a rather difficult environment where the best survived and the weakest were eliminated. Butler and Hodos (2005) argue that from an evolutionary perspective, adaptation comes into play significantly. When people can come to terms with a particular environment, they can properly handle the hardships such that they adapt to the situation. They become accustomed and the environment becomes part of them. However, those who are unable to adapt to the environment are eliminated such that only the fittest will move forward. Adaptation in evolution leads to ‘survival for the fittest’ where only the strong are retained. Thus, this concept is generally very important to the whole evolution theory.


It is very clear that adaptation explains why and how things happen in the environment and the human body. The feeling in the physical body – the sensory receptors – is not as it seems and is because of the brain interpretation. From the experiments, we realize that consistency in a certain stimulus is felt for some time and the body becomes accustomed to the situation; thus, realizing the feeling less. In conclusion, the concept of sensory adaptation is more of nerve-coordinated rather than physical.



Butler, A. B., & Hodos, W. (2005). Comparative Vertebrate Neuroanatomy: Evolution and Adaptation. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Interscience.

Culler, E. (2011). On Thermal Sensitivity and the Nature of Sensory Adaptation. Psychology. Retrieved from

Starr, C., & McMillan, B. (2010). Human Biology. Belmont, Ca: Brooks/Cole Cengager Learning.

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