In Search of a Unified Theory of Sensory Perception: Possible Links between the Vibrational Mechanism of Olfaction and the Evolution of Language

Biosemiotics 13 (2):261-270 (2020)
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Abstract

Here, I outline the idea of a unified hypothesis of sensory perception, developed from the theoretical vibrational mechanism of olfaction, which can be applied across all sensory modalities. I propose that all sensory perception is based upon the detection of mechanical forces at a cellular level, and the subsequent mechanotransduction of the signal via the nervous system. Thus, I argue that the sensory modalities found in the animal kingdom may all be viewed as being mechanoreceptory, rather than being discrete neurophysiological systems which evolved independently of each other. I go on to argue that this idea could potentially explain language evolution, with birdsong being an example of a more simple form of non-Saussurean language that employs ‘frequency-mimicking’ to produce a vocal signal which describes acoustic, chemical and electromagnetic vibrational frequencies detected within in the environment. I also give examples of how this hypothesis could potentially explain phenomena such as vocal mimicry in animals, as well as the human perception of musicality and the occurrence of synaesthesia; a condition found in humans, where the stimulation of one sensory modality results in the stimulation of another. For example, auditory stimuli are detected and are heard as an acoustic signal, as well as being perceived as colour by the visual system.

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Amelia Lewis
Queens University Belfast

References found in this work

Sensorimotor Subjectivity and the Enactive Approach to Experience.Evan Thompson - 2005 - Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 4 (4):407-427.
Mind, Matter and Quantum Mechanics.Henry P. Stapp - 1982 - Foundations of Physics 12 (4):363-399.
The Biology of Bird-Song Dialects.Myron Charles Baker & Michael A. Cunningham - 1985 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 8 (1):85-100.

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