The scientific study of sensation and perception started in the early nineteenth century when positivist philosophers tried to make psychology (defined as the study of behavior) into a biological science. According to this view, the human mind is devoid of any implicit or explicit information, and at birth the experiences of the surroundings formed it. They divided experience into two distinct areas, one was sensation, in which external and internal stimuli were merely detected by the organism, and the second was perception, which is the more complex process of selecting and interpreting sensed stimuli. They also noticed early on that the consequences of sensing and perceiving could only be interpreted if it produced a measurable response. The study of the relationship between the characteristics of stimuli and their effects on the sensation experience as measured by motor responses.

Sensation can be divided into different categories depending on the type of stimulus involved. This categorization led to the observation that living organisms have special organs and systems devoted to the sensation and perception of certain types of stimuli, and are thus called senses. In this way, luminous stimuli is detected by the sense of vision, contact with skin and epithelial tissue by touch (also called somatosensory), expanding vibration waves (sounds) by audition, chemicals in food and drink by taste, and airborne chemicals by smell. These five senses are the most universally accepted, although most authors also recognize the sense of balance which detects the position of the body with respect to gravity and its acceleration and deceleration in any direction. There are two other senses which some authors distinguish One is the kinestesic sense which detects the position of body parts with respect to each other, and the other is the sense of pain. Although these two senses are usually considered as part of one of the other senses.

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