Sensation and Emotion / What is the difference?


The difference between sensation and emotion is that sensation is a physical feeling or perception from something that comes into contact with the body; something sensed while emotion is a person’s internal state of being and involuntary physiological response to an object or a situation, based on or tied to physical state and sensory data. Aye, yai, yai! There’s a nice bit of convoluted composition. Clarification:  sensation is the stimulus and emotion is the response.

What about perception?

The difference between sensation and perception is that sensation is a physical feeling or perception from something that comes into contact with the body; something sensed while perception is conscious understanding of something.(Remember – “conscious” refers to the use of verbal language to “process” information: “to be conscious” is to think verbally, which is different than “visual thinking” in images, which is intuitive – unconscious.)


Organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information; Conscious understanding of something. (And inexplicably) Vision (ability ); Acuity (cognition ) That which is detected by the five senses; not necessarily understood (imagine looking through fog, trying to understand if you see a small dog or a cat); also that which is detected within consciousness as a thought, intuition, deduction, etc.

At this point, I was fed up with WikiDiff’s bizarre presentation: A good example of why one should be wary of “info” on the Internet.

Two random opinions about emotion:

“Emotion is any conscious experience characterized by intense mental activity and a high degree of pleasure or displeasure. Scientific discourse has drifted to other meanings and there is no consensus on a definition.”

“Emotion. … Based on discoveries made through neural mapping of the limbic system, the neurobiological explanation of human emotion is that emotion is a pleasant or unpleasant mental state organized in the limbic system of the mammalian brain.”

Let’s see what the “helping caring fixing” industry has to say, since it is the self-appointed authority on emotion and all matters human.

Keynote Address / Decade of the brain

“The Science of Emotion”

Antonio R. Damasio, M.D., Ph.D., is the M.W. Van Allen Professor and Head of the Department of Neurology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, and adjunct professor at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California. He is the author of Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason and the Human Brain.

In the last century there was a neuroscience of emotion, and today there is a neuroscience of emotion. In between there was a long, dark gap during which neuroscientists regarded emotion as elusive, objectively difficult to define, and thus, not acceptable to study. Reinforcing this attitude was a long philosophical tradition of not trusting emotions, regarding them as unruly phenomena that can wreak havoc on decision-making. (Is this not an accurate observation of “emotion in action” regardless of the physiology involved?)

As recent research has shown, this prejudice and attitude are profoundly wrong. In the very least, we can say that emotion is always in the loop of reason. Emotion is an adaptive response, part of the vital process of normal reasoning and decision-making. It is one of the highest levels of bioregulation for the human organism and has an enormous influence on the maintenance of our homeostatic balance and thus of our well-being. Last but not least, emotion is critical to learning and memory. (A rambling description that does not “define” emotion – and note that the concept of “normal” has been introduced)

Using imaging techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) to study patients with brain lesions as well as normal subjects, we have begun to make some inroads into understanding the areas of the brain involved in different types of emotion. (Here we go: “understanding” means “indentification of pathologies”)

Emotion is a very adaptive form of physiological response, and it regulates our lives. Emotion is expressed largely in the theater of the body, through posture and facial expression as well as through such internal processes as heart rate and blood pressure. Moreover, all of these bodily responses are fed back to the brain through neural channels as well as humoral channels, which bypass neural signaling.

To understand how emotion works on the body … we must differentiate emotion from feeling. (Strange relationship – We can see the way that word-concepts “interfere with” understanding, by turning processes, phenomena, perceptions and systems into “nouns” such as “emotion” – objects that have an “aura of being concrete actors” just like cars, trees, and bodies – and body-brain parts. But these metaphysical “word objects” are not physical objects! The author is doing the differentiating.

When we experience any of the primary emotions–sadness, happiness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust–our experiences express themselves physically, in ways that can be observed by another person.  (Emotions and experiences are personified – “they” do such and such and “they” are “things seen” – socially.)

Feelings, by contrast, are our conscious perception of all those changes happening in the body, and of very subtle changes that are happening in the way our cognitive apparatus functions. (Really? A person “is conscious of” – can describe in words – how the brain “works”?)

Most of what happens when an emotion is elicited happens nonconsciously. Often our body may already be in a state that represents anger before we know what is making us angry. (That is, before we translate “it” into words) The creation of this body state is automatic, largely preset by our genes to respond not to a particular thing but to certain categories of things. (So our genes are “categorizers” just like the people who are driven to “categorize” reality as a metaphysical “domain” that reflects their cognitive process – ie turning everything into “word-concepts”)

For instance, when we generate (I thought this was an automatic, unconscious reaction) states of fear or anger or disgust or happiness, we produce withdrawal behaviors or approach behaviors that have been preserved through evolution because they have proved advantageous to survival. We have inherited this system for sorting out what is good and what is bad, automatically, in order to preserve ourselves.

(Why so unnecessarily burden the “fight, flight or freeze” response with extra verbiage that removes a concrete instinctive reaction to the metaphysical domain of “dogma-speech”?)

The power of such nonconscious processing is enormous. Many studies have shown that in normal individuals, the brain can pick up a signal that is well masked at the conscious level. Conversely, individuals with damage to the amygdala may lose the ability to detect negative stimuli, with unfortunate results in their lives.

(Here we go again: the concrete “human organism” – the individual – is to be judged against a “fantasy object” a generalized “model human” that does not exist.) The amygdala–a brain structure intimately involved in the fear response and in recognizing fear–will be activated even when a person is not consciously aware of having been presented with a fearful stimulus. (Duh! That is the definition of an automatic instinctive reaction)

Wow! There is a minefield of illogic, totally without “proof” or “reason” in fact. A mish-mash of “supernatural” notions.

1. The conscious level (word processing) is described as “something” unidentified, but intentional, that is “stopping” whatever is going on in the brain from being expressed in verbal form.

2. A damaged amygdala has something to do with this “self-deception”

3. “negative stimuli” is presented as a “category” that is somehow different to “positive stimuli” when all stimuli are “sensory input” – period.

4. Failure of this imaginary good/bad system in an individual is responsible for all the tragedies that befall certain human beings (hint, hint) – a drastic supernatural effect and not at all scientific .

Well! That solves the problem of all those human beings who don’t “live up to” the maginary “normal model” created by the social hierarchy.

And now, The Usual harangue that Asperger individuals Will recognize As the Wrath of Social Authority over the mere presence of nonconforming humans.

Similarly, patients with damage to certain regions of the frontal lobe also suffer from an inability to appreciate negative outcomes. Despite maintaining normal intelligence and knowledge, they no longer can run their lives effectively. They cannot learn from their mistakes or think about future consequences. Though they can reason logically, their decision-making ability is flawed. They have lost emotional reactivity at a high level; they can no longer sense, for instance, embarrassment or guilt or pride or shame. They have lost their ability to feel emotion relative to the future consequences of their actions and thus are no longer (this assumes “they” once were) able to qualify their choices as “potentially good” or “potentially bad.” (As if “normal” people can accomplish these “standards” of behavior! Hmm.. maybe this preposterous division between “super humans” and actual humans is why 50+ percent of Americans are now “diagnosed” to be defective – mentally ill.

How is this categorical “judgement by defective amygdala” any different than Nazi scientific rationalization for categorical characterization of “the Jews” as subhuman, or the condemnation by slaveholders that Black Africans were “Categorically” “animals” and not human Beings? It isn’t.

What we have learned, then, is that the brain has at least two systems for assessing the value of events. One system leads to a conscious recall, through memory, of options for action and of representations of future outcomes. Then we use logical reasoning and knowledge to decide that we will do X instead of Y. (What do you mean “we” White Man? asked the rest of humanity)  Another system, probably evolutionarily far older, acts even before the first one. It activates biases related to our previous emotional experience in comparable situations. These nonconscious biases affect the options and reasoning strategies that we present to our conscious selves.

There well may be “paths” that the brain utilizes to “process information” – some primarily instinctive and inherited; others that are specific to learning, especially in childhood as the brain is growing and responding to the environment, but none of this “word-concept” interpretation of brain functioning can be “found” in the brain. The assertion that “we” do such and such is a projection of the speaker’s belief in himself as the “normal” and indeed “superior” model of Homo sapiens – created out of self-deception that his “class” of (supposedly) educated academic males is the one and only “endorsed by God” form of the human organism.

We do ourselves a disservice when we think of human beings as exclusively logic- or knowledge-driven, and fail to pay attention to the role of the emotions. The two systems are enmeshed because that is the way our brain and our organism have been put together by evolution.

(Oh please! Spare us the “circle the wagons” tactic of coming back to “we are so intelligent that we understand everything! Proof? Even God, the universe and Evolution agree with us.
Recall this statement?

neuroscientists regarded emotion as elusive, objectively difficult to define, and thus, not acceptable to study.”

The “modern social” version of human “reality” does nothing to improve understanding of how humans work as a component of Nature. It simply buries understanding beneath a metaphysical structure that illegitimately uses brain-targeted technology to further obscure real practical knowledge in  favor of self-serving archaic cultural beliefs about human behavior.

Go to:

·        National Institute of Mental Health Home Page

·        LC/NIMH Decade of the Brain Home Page

·        Library of Congress Home Page

If you have questions or comments on the LC/NIMH Decade of the Brain Project, please contact:


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