Carlos Mora and Mateo Kreiker: General Psychopathology 16


Thomas A. Ban: Cognitive Organization*


        We learn about the world directly and indirectly. The direct way is through the sensory organs (Pavlov’s “first signalling system”), whereas the indirect way is through the words used in speech and the connections of these words (Pavlov’s “second signalling system"). Abstraction and thinking are parts of this process.

        Sensation is the process that makes it possible to learn about the world directly. The source of sensation is an existing, objective world. The knowledge we gain through this is correct knowledge even if it is only part of the total knowledge. It is more important that the learned truth is the objective truth that exposes the rules of the world in a reliable manner, confirmed by experience and practice.

        The material in the world has an effect, on our sensory organs by  eliciting a sensation. Sensation is dependent on the brain, the sensory organs and of numerous pre-structured-material of the organism.   

        The existence of the material is independent of sensation. The material is the primary, sensation and its reflection in consciousness are secondary and in general mental events are higher functions of well defined, pre-structured material.

        Sensation is the result of a stimulus produced impulse. Stimuli may be chemical or physical; may have an origin in the environment or in the organism. The physiological process that takes place in the sensory end-organ as a result of a sensation is usually referred to as impulse. The sensory end-organ may also be referred to as a receptor, or analyzer: intero- receptor, or extero-receptor.

        The impulse is conducted through the sensory nerve to the appropriate cerebral center where, as a result of an integrated cortical and subcortical activity, it is transformed into a conscious sensation. Since in the living organism at any single time numerous impulses are creating sensations, we do not really deal with elementary sensations, but with synthesized and conscious perceptions. This is actually where the dialectic leap takes place that transforms the chemical or physical energy into an energy of a different nature that is characteristic exclusively of the living organism. 

        When we talk of perception and attempt to give it a narrow definition, the problems are insurmountable. The reason for the difficulty is that the attempt entails the separation of a part of a considerably more complex and greater entity, a part that actually is non-existent in itself.

        Inevitably associated with perception is a certain level of consciousness (arousal) and a particular focusing of consciousness, referred to as attention. Connected with perception are engrams of memory and particular emotions. The quality of perception is dependent on all of these, as well as on the situation that triggers of the perceptual process.

        Probably the most important in the perceptual process is the “self," that directs attention and, consequently, perception to fulfill a certain predetermined purpose. Thus, the same face is perceived differently by the painter, sculptor, teacher, physician, etc. 

        There is experimental evidence that three artists will produce three different paintings on the same scene. This, of course does not mean that perception is not the reflection of reality, but rather, that at a certain stage of mental development perception is no longer the result of an integration of elementary sensations, but the perception of a “Gestalt” or structure.

        Recognition and apperception are virtually indistinguishable from perception. Recognition refers to the integration of a complex perceptual structure with an engram that has its origin in a similar experience. Apperception entails a higher level of integration and it refers to a situation in which one has also identified the meaning of the perceptual experience.  While recognition means only the identification of perception, the comparison of the recently perceived with a perception of the past, apperception also implies an understanding of the significance of the perceptual material. For example: if someone talks to us in a foreign language, we recognize that the language is foreign to us, but in so far as the content of the communication is concerned, apperception is lacking. On the other hand, communication in our mother tongue is not only recognized, but is also understood (apperception).

        Observation is a special type of perception characterized by purposefulness and duration.

        Sensations from the external world reflect the environment. Supplementing “exteroception” is “interoception,” sensation from the internal world (i.e., organism) which reflects the state and activity of our various organs. These interoceptions do not usually become conscious. Yet, the cerebral cortex provides for a continuous synthesis of these interoceptions into a general feeling tone.

        One should not overlook the fact that not all stimuli lead to perception. Only if the stimulus reaches a minimal strength necessary to trespass the threshold of perception will it lead to perception.                 .   

        Stimuli not sufficiently strong to reach the perceptual threshold will not elicit a perception. As lower the threshold as greater the sensitivity for perception and vice versa.


*The text, “Cognitive Organization,” presented here was extracted by Thomas A. Ban in the early 1960s from Julius (Gyula) Nyiro’s Hungarian textbook Psychiatria, published in 1962 by Medicina Kiado. It was in his textbook that Nyiro set the foundation that was to be referred to as “structural psychopathology.”  Adopted from, Ban Collection. July 27, 2017. 


October 29, 2020