Sensing is the information “feed” for all cognition. Cognition is the sensory -processing attribute of directed action, and our sensory potentials co-evolved with our cognitive and movement abilities. As Living Things acquired more complex abilities, for example being able to move, the sophistication, scope, and sensitivity of our sensing abilities increased.
Our ancestral cognitive mechanisms are dominated by our senses. The evolution of sensing abilities, therefore, offers a perspective on the qualities of our reflexes, drives, instincts, and emotions. Tying the emergence of each of these ancestral cognitions to the emergence of the facilitating sensory ability clarifies the purpose of both the cognitive mechanism as well as the locomotor functions that co-evolved alongside each sense. As each of these sensory modalities is “locked” to its concurrently evolved cognitive and locomotor functions, better understanding these relationships can aid in identifying how our complex sensory processing is influenced by these ancestral mechanisms. For example, instincts and vision co-evolved, which creates in our species a strong linkage between visual activities based in movement with instinctual responses. We normally neo-cortically suppress1 these instinctual responses, but in stressful situations can observe their emergence.
There is also a strong linkage between the senses which we evolved and the Dimensional Paradigms. We co-evolved mechanisms to move through dimensionally more complex space along with the ability to sense the surrounding dimensions. For example, vision is line-of-sight sensing and co-evolved with our ability to move along a line, intrinsically forward-backward movements. Hearing senses the surrounding horizontal plane and is more immediately associated with mammals who also evolved more dynamic lateral movement abilities.
Making sense of what is sensed is as important as sensing itself. Without some sensory recognition mechanism, the sensory data is useless. Only after the data is processed does it becomes reduced to information useful for selecting a course of action. The pre-requisite evolving neurology for processing the sensory information is the third leg, along with movement and our senses, of the tripod that facilitates complex evolution. At its foundational level, this cognitive function filters for threat, enabling immediate activation of protective responses. Our Startle Reflex is a good example of this. Another example of a protective reaction at a more recent evolutionary layer is Blind Sight, in which instinctual protective responses are activated non-consciously. However, the scope of these cognitive functions extends far beyond protection and forms the foundation for increasingly complex activities like hunting, nurturing children and going to Mars. The layered attributes of the cognitive component of sensory processing are discussed in the paper on:
Cognition and the Evolving Brain
Our senses pick out a subset of the spectrum of the available sensory potential of our surroundings that has proven to be beneficial to our survival as a species. When we enter into a protective response our awareness becomes hyperfocused on these sensory inputs. Tunnel Vision is an example of this reflexive response. However, when we are in a calm state of being it is possible to become aware of sensations from our surroundings which only very loosely correlates with our senses. Witnessing the energetic field around Living Things, or feeling the presence of someone behind you whom you cannot see are common examples of this. It is likely that as children we all experienced a much broader sensory feed, but acquired the skill to focus on aspects aligned with our social consensual reality. As adults, as we gain experience managing our innate protective mechanisms and can maintain a calm state of present being, we open ourselves to a broader experience of the sensory potential surrounding us.
1Neocortical suppression of underlying neurology is a subject that was studied extensively by Sor Charles Sherrington. A brief discussion of his findings:
Activation of Reflexes
In the sections below each of our primary sensory domains is discussed in the context of its evolutionary emergence along with the qualities of the associated cognitive and locomotor mechanisms.
LIGHT: VISION / CAT SLIT EYES
MAMMALS: CAT EARS THAT ROTATE INDEPENDENTLY
This contraction of sensory processing happens in some form with all of our primary senses.
HEARING: We focus on low-frequency vibrations. The work of Dr. Steven Porges has helped clarify this dynamic.
TACTILE: Hair follicles stand on end, making us hypersensitive to touch. There is a neurological linkage from hair follicles to the Enteric Nervous System which probably predates the emergence of our Central Nervous System.
VISION: Hyperfocus, tunnel vision.
A discussion on our Sensory/Processing Core
THE SENSORY/PROCESSING CORE
A discussion on our core structural attributes:
THE FOUR CORES
A discussion on the models for our species presented on this website