Sensory blending

The BBC’s science series Horizon just broadcast a fantastic edition on perception, illusions and how the senses combine with each other to the point of allowing us to integrate artificial new senses.

If you’ve got a healthy interest in psychology, the first half of the programme discusses several important but well-known effects like the rubber hand illusion, colour context changes and the McGurk effect, in light of what they reveal about the perceptual system.

Even if you’re familiar with these concepts, its worth watching as they’re so well presented, but its the second half of the programme which really stands out.

It has several brilliant examples of where people have begun to integrate new information into their sensory world: a blind mountain biker who has learnt to echolocate by making clicks with his mouth, helicopter pilots flying purely by spatial information conveyed to them by vibrations, a belt that allows the wearer to feel where magnetic north is at all times, and so on.

Some of the programme is clearly inspired by an excellent book on unusual sensory and perceptual integration that I’m reading at the moment called See What I’m Saying. It’s by psychologist Lawerence Rosenblum whose name you may recognise as we’ve featured some great pieces from his Sensory Superpowers blog before on Mind Hacks.

If you’re in the UK, you can use the BBC’s iPlayer website to watch the programme online, although rumour has it that there’s a working torrent over at the Pirate Bay.

Link to Horizon edition on BBC iPlayer.
Link to index page of programme on the Pirate Bay.

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