The theory of the organism-environment system: III. Role of efferent influences on receptors in the formation of knowledge

Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science 34 (2):90-100 (1999)
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The present article is an attempt to give - in the frame of the theory of the organism - environment system - a new interpretation to the role of efferent influences on receptor activity and to the functions of senses in the formation of knowledge. It is argued, on the basis of experimental evidence and theoretical considerations, that the senses are not transmitters of environmental information, but they create a direct connection between the organism and the environment, which makes the development of a dynamic living system, the organism - environment system, possible. In this connection process the efferent influences on receptor activity are of particular significance, because with their help the receptors may be adjusted in relation to the parts of the environment which are most important in the achievement of behavioral results. Perception is the process of joining of new parts of the environment to the organism - environment system ; thus, the formation of knowledge by perception is based on reorganization of the organism - environment system, and not on transmission of information from the environment. With the help of the efferent influences on receptors each organism creates its own peculiar world which is simultaneously subjective and objective. The present considerations have far reaching influences as well on experimental work in neurophysiology and psychology of perception as on philosophical considerations of knowledge formation.

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Timo Jarvilehto
University of Helsinki (PhD)


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