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Today, sensation is primarily a neurophysiologically and neuropsychologically defined term. He has thus input into the Medicine and Biology found than by stimulus exposure induced elementary process, which according to the ideas of the association psychology of perception is. Sensation is thus understood to be a precondition for perception and a first level of neuronal processes that ultimately enable perception ( sensuality ). The theory of spinal irritation by Wilhelm Griesinger (1817–1868) can be regarded as an early contribution to the elementary theory of sensation . In contrast to apperception , sensations can therefore also be processed subliminally or unconsciously and vegetatively . The colloquial term, which has a long history, must also be distinguished from the term scientifically defined in philosophy , psychology and psychopathology .


The term sensation has been documented since the 14th to 15th centuries (late mhd. Emphindunge ). In German, the term used in the verb “to feel” (ahd. Intfindan 8th-11th centuries) is used as an expression of mental Feelings like feeling pain, remorse, friendship. As a word stem, it is also included in the term sensitivity as a term for a literary and musical style in the context of Pietism .


A epistemological direction emerging from the sensation as basic elements from which knowledge is composed, is in the philosophy as Sensualismus (English sensation hereinafter). While common usage in Germany regards sensation as an inner experience - cf. Chapter Etymology , was pointed out by English philosophy, primarily by John Locke (1632–1704), to the importance of “external” experience , while David Hume (1711–1776) also attached importance to “internal” experience. These opposing perspectives determine the distinction between a priori and a posteriori knowledge .

Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716) already emphasized the self-activity of the soul and spoke of sensation in this context.

Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) calls the real as the object of sensation, sensation itself an interplay of concept and intuition (KrV B 207). At this point it says: “Perception is empirical consciousness, i. i. one in which there is at the same time sensation ”. Kant goes on to say that sensation is the matter of perception (KrV B 209). Sensation is only the concept of something within the experience of which we “have nothing a priori, as indefinite concepts of the synthesis of possible sensations, provided they belong to the unity of apperception (in a possible experience)” (KrV B 751). Kant differentiates between representation in general ( representatio ) as the highest genre of all representations (KrV B 376) and other terms grouped under it. These include:

  1. The conception with consciousness: It is called by Kant lat. Perceptio .
  2. Sensation: According to Kant, this is an idea that only relates to the subject as the modification of its state. He called it the Latin sensatio (B 376).
  3. Objective perception: According to Kant, it is knowledge , Latin cognitio .

Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) set up his own doctrine of sensation . Instead of a criticism of reason , he first called for a physiology of the human powers of knowledge. In his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant addresses the objection to a physiology of the human understanding, as it had already been raised by John Locke (1632–1704) (KrV, A IX). The Marburg School has developed its own standpoint on the concept of sensation.

More recently, not only in the epistemology of Wilhelm Dilthey , Johannes Rehmke , Andreas Joseph Hofmann , Theodor Haering , but also in psychology ( Gestalt psychology ), the importance of sensations as structural elements of perception and ideas has been disputed. Gestalt psychology takes the view that sensation and perception are jointly responsible for the formation of consciousness and therefore of greater importance than the sum of both parts.


Personality typology: The light zones of the graphic symbolize the typical attitude of the sensation type according to CG Jung as a superior function. In the graphic, the habitual attitude is slightly shifted to the “pole of thinking”. This is intended to indicate that the setting types are often mixed forms with “neighboring” basic functions. Here in the example there is a certain tendency towards “empirical thinking” (mixed form between the basic forms “sensation” and “thinking”). The darker zones of the graphic initially represent the auxiliary functions (here: "Thinking" and "Feeling"), the darkest zones the inferior functions or inferior functions (here: "Intuition"). According to Jung, the mixed type chosen here in the figure is to be understood as a personal tendency towards concretism .

CG Jung (1875–1961) sees sensation as one of a total of four basic psychological functions in addition to thinking , feeling and intuition . He differentiates between abstract sensation and sensual or concrete sensation. The abstract sensation can also be described as aesthetic insofar as it separates itself from subjective admixtures of feeling and thought . This abstract sensation is a product of functional differentiation, insofar as the will also contributes as a directional element. The sensation very strongly characterizes the nature of the child. A person who orients his overall attitude according to the principle of sensation is described by Jung as a personality of the sensation type.

According to Jung, all basic psychological functions have a structure of opposites. Sensing is opposite to intuition and thinking is opposite to feeling. Jung regards the meaning of the sensory data as essential for the sensation type, the sense of reality and the consideration of all details of an event. Feeling and intuition are seen as irrational functions , which means that the perceived or intuited conditions are not evaluated, as is, in contrast, the case with thinking or feeling. With the sensation type, no sense is given to one's own perceptions . Rather, things are received “as they are”. In contrast, people who can be assigned to the intuition type grasp the overall mood, the overall color scheme and the inner meaning of an event. The other basic psychological functions also serve as classification principles for the Jung personality typology.

Hubert Rohracher (1903–1972) describes sensation as "an insoluble psychological phenomenon that is generated by external stimuli acting on the sensory organs and whose intensity depends on the strength of the stimulus, and its quality depends on the type of sensory organ". The distinction between sensation and perception has been viewed controversially in the past . Hubert Rohracher and Wilhelm Wundt both distinguished the terms from one another. However, they were in contrast to Gestalt psychology (see also the epistemological conceptions mentioned above in the philosophy chapter ).

If one understands by induction an intellectual procedure which consists in arriving at an implicit conclusion from a finite number of given statements and observations , then the sensation type is predisposed to inductive thinking.


Sensation is a result of neuronal excitation and, in sensory perception, becomes effective “first”, so to speak, in the primary sensory centers of the brain before it can then become conscious as a specific perception in other secondary and tertiary centers of the brain ( gnostic processing). Disturbances of the primary centers become noticeable as cortical agnosias (e.g. as cortical blindness ). Sensation is therefore bound to an apparatus that can be described anatomically . This consists of receptors for the reception of stimuli in the sensory organs or of the zoa-aesthetic apparatus and organelles from inside the body (visceral sensitivity) and the corresponding nerve tracts that run from there to the primary brain centers. The physiology of sensation as a biologically organized process is structured as follows:

  1. Transmission of a neural stimulus from the receptors of the sensory organs and partly also those of the enteric reception to the so-called primary projection fields of the brain
  2. Depiction of these stimuli on the designated bark fields and forwarding to the secondary and tertiary bark fields for gnostic processing (conscious perception)

This basically two-part process of stimulus transmission (1) to the central nervous system and (2) the subsequent “evaluation” of the transmitted information is also differentiated in the English language with the pair of terms sensation and perception . The term from Engl. Sensation is also the basis of the German meaning of “perception”. Sensation is strictly sensory-physiologically regarded as "the primary immediate psychological correlate of a sensory excitation". Due to the quality problem , however, no exact and sufficient scientific justification for consciousness phenomena can be achieved. In philosophy one spoke of sensation long before the more detailed physiological individual facts were even known (see chapter Philosophy ). This is a purely rational division that is independent of anatomical and physiological research results, but does not contradict them (see also: ( Convergence ). The fact that sensations are related to the qualities of consciousness is also evident from the phenomena of misrelated sensations (referred sensations) at So- called phantom limbs of amputees. Otherwise, the term sensation is largely synonymous with sensitivity , although the difference in the meaning between sensitive and sensory must be pointed out (see also: Topistic brain research ). Sensitive and sensory sensation are often distinguished from one another lies with the outside world, that of the sensitive sensation in one's own body. The use of the term "sensation" in a neurophysiologically defined sense does not exclude that it is not only up-to-date in scientific formal language, but also in everyday language Shows all or previous history of meaning.


Karl Jaspers (1883–1969) describes certain anomalies of the object consciousness as disturbances of perception, which can be understood as changes in the ability to perceive. First of all, changes in intensity and quality, as well as abnormal sympathy, must be distinguished as perception anomalies. These disorders can also manifest themselves as abnormalities in feelings and moods or as a disruption of basic psychosomatic facts:

  1. When the intensity of the sensations increases ( hyperesthesia ), all sounds are heard louder and all colors are seen more brightly. They are also called quantitative sensory disorders . Such increases in intensity do not only occur with an increased attitude towards life, but also in particular with delirium , poisoning, before epileptic seizures . The hyperalgesia is expected to do so. - Reductions in intensity (hypesthesia) occur in hypnotic states, hysteria or with violent affective excitement in armed conflicts (soldiers in battle).
  2. Shifts in the quality of sensations ( paraesthesia ) are accordingly also called qualitative sensory disorders . They exist, for example, when the white pages of a book look red and the black letters look green. Similar disorders have been described in the incipient mescaline rush .
  3. Abnormal sympathy is when hearing sounds that are physically-mechanically felt. According to Jaspers, they are to be distinguished from the so-called synopsy or audition colorée . Here, hearing sounds creates an association with a color.
  4. According to Jaspers, abnormal sensual feelings are also to be understood as a disturbance of the object consciousness, insofar as thoughts (thought acts) provided with an intentional act - namely with an act of meaning awareness - are mistakenly interpreted as sensations endowed with sensational qualities. For example, touching wooden pencils is felt in an abnormal way as a burning pulling through of all limbs . The perceived body action is also called Zönästhesie called and provides a psychosomatic is fundamental fact. A reliable coincidence with the objective visible by the foreign observers symptoms is rare after Jaspers.

See also

  • Empathy or empathy, the ability to mentally "put yourself in the shoes of another person"
  • Sensation as a subjectively experienced emotional state of pleasure or discomfort as a result of a sensational event


Web links

Wiktionary: Sensation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wiktionary: to feel  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. sensation . In: Norbert Boss (Ed.): Roche Lexicon Medicine . 2nd Edition. Hoffmann-La Roche AG and Urban & Schwarzenberg, Munich 1987, ISBN 3-541-13191-8 , p. 483,
  2. ^ Klaus Dörner : Citizens and Irre. On the social history and sociology of science in psychiatry. (1969) Fischer Taschenbuch, Bücher des Wissens, Frankfurt am Main 1975, ISBN 3-436-02101-6 ; on stw. “Sensation” p. 322; to district “Spinal Irritation” p. 324.
  3. sensation . In: Günther Drosdowski : Etymology. Dictionary of origin of the German language; The history of German words and foreign words from their origins to the present. Volume 7. 2nd edition. Dudenverlag, Mannheim 1997, ISBN 3-411-20907-0 , p. 155.
  4. a b Georgi Schischkoff (Hrsg.): Philosophical dictionary. 14th edition. Alfred-Kröner, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-520-01321-5 , (a) zu Lexikon-Stw. “Sensualism” p. 632; (b) to Leikon-Stw. "Sensation", p. 150.
  5. a b Friedrich Kirchner : Dictionary of basic philosophical terms. (Revised by Carl Michaëlis under the title Kirchner's Dictionary of Basic Philosophical Terms ) 5th edition. Leipzig 1907; Regarding permanent “Sensation” (a) “Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz”: (b) “Differentiation between sensitive and sensory”,
  6. Heinrich Lehwalder: Herder's teaching and feeling. Attempt to interpret v. Hs writing “Vom Erkennen u. Feeling ”as well as an attempt to interpret v. Hs writing “Vom Erkennen u. Feeling of the human soul ”u. at the same time a contribution to the modern problematic of the concept of sensation . Dissertation Kiel, 1955.
  7. ^ Carl Gustav Jung : Definitions . In: Collected Works. Volume 6, Walter-Verlag, Düsseldorf 1995, ISBN 3-530-40081-5 ; to Stw. "Sensation", p. 456 ff., § 713 f.
  8. Jolande Jacobi : The psychology of CG Jung . An introduction to the complete works. With a foreword by CG Jung. Fischer Taschenbuch, Frankfurt March 1987, ISBN 3-596-26365-4 ; to Stw. "Sensation as a function of consciousness", p. 22.
  9. Hubert Rohracher : Introduction to Psychology . 10th edition. Munich 1971, cit. after Arnold, Sp. 456.
  10. Hubert Rohracher: Introduction to Psychology . 10th edition. Munich 1971, p. 115.
  11. Wilhelm Wundt : Fundamentals of physiological psychology. 1st edition. Leipzig 1874.
  12. a b Wilhelm Karl Arnold u. a. (Ed.): Lexicon of Psychology . Bechtermünz, Augsburg 1996, ISBN 3-86047-508-8 ; (a) Re. “Induktion”: Col. 969; (b) Re. “Sensation”: Col. 457.
  13. Manfred Spitzer : Spirit on the Net. Models for learning, thinking and acting. Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg 1996, ISBN 3-8274-0109-7 ; to Stw. "Misrelated sensations in phantom limbs", p. 161 f.
  14. Karl Jaspers : General Psychopathology. 9th edition. Springer, Berlin 1973, ISBN 3-540-03340-8 ; to Stw. “Perception anomalies due to disturbed sensations”, p. 52 f .; to Stw. “Empathy”, p. 94; to Stw. " Body Sensation " (Coenesthesia), p. 191 ff.