ap psych study guides

🤔  Unit 5: Cognitive Psychology

👶  Unit 6: Developmental Psychology

🤪  Unit 7: Motivation, Emotion, & Personality

🛋  Unit 8: Clinical Psychology

3.7 Body Senses






⏱️  4 min read

written by

Dalia Savy

dalia savy

November 11, 2020

available on hyper typer

Body senses provide you with information about the position of your body in respect to your environment. The four main ones are touch, pain, vestibular, and kinesthesis.

Somatosensation (Touch)

The sense of touch that you experience is a mix of pressure, warmth, cold, and pain. Variations of these four include tickling, itching, and wetness. For example, wetness results from the stimulation of both cold and pressure receptors. The information from the sensory receptors is then carried to your spinal cord, which is transferred to your medulla, thalamus, and, finally, the somatosensory cortex.

Touch is very subjective.

😩 Pain

Just like smell and taste are essential for your survival, pain is your body’s way of telling you to stop the action you are doing. 

People that don't feel pain at all can die early because they either don’t detect when something is wrong with their body or they don’t stop an action that's harmful. Several people have been born without a sense of pain. 

Pain is relieved with the secretion of endorphins, which are the “feel good” hormones. Everyone feels pain differently, based on genetics and experience, but women are generally more pain-sensitive. 

Scientists Melzack and Wall came up with the gate-control theory in an attempt to explain where the pain comes from. Their theory is that the spinal cord, where pain signals are sent to, has a neurological “gate” that can block or allow a pain signal to go to the brain. The gate is opened by nerve fibers that carry pain signals and closed by neural activity or larger nerve fibers🤺


Image Courtesy of Graceful Agony.

To control chronic pain, massage, acupuncture, ice, and endorphins can close the gate. All of these are methods we often use to reduce pain.

When we are distracted by pain but soothed by a natural release of endorphins, pain is reduced. For example, many athletes don’t notice that they sprained their ankle during a game. How is that possible? Wouldn’t they automatically detect the pain? No, while you play a sport, endorphins are naturally released. This sensation of endorphins blocks the pain during the game, but immediately after, the pain is felt.

The brain can also play psychological tricks on you and create pain. This is often known as phantom limb sensations, where the brain misinterprets activity🧠

The gate-control theory only explains the biological influences of pain. Psychologically, we seem to edit our memories of pain and overlook how long we have felt pain. We often only remember the time we felt the most pain, and the time the pain began to diminish. Socially, we tend to perceive pain when others also experience it. For example, if men see someone get hit in the crotch, they also “feel” the pain, even though it isn’t happening to them.

⚖️ Vestibular Sense

The vestibular sense is your sense of movement, including balance. Our semicircular canals and vestibular sacs in the inner ear are responsible for keeping balance. Hair cells are stimulated by movement and your vestibular sacs respond to the movement with similar receptors, balancing it out and creating an equilibrium.

When you are motion sick 🤢, the signals from your vestibular system and your eyes 👀 clash with one another.


Kinesthesia is the system that enables us to sense our position and how and when our body parts move. Our vision working with kinesthesia allows us to know where we stand with respect to our environment. 

✋ Other Major Terms

Proprioception is the awareness of where the parts of your body are in relation to the space around you.

Sensory Interaction is where our senses interact with one another and influence each other. For example, smell + texture + taste = flavor. Also, when you have a cold 🤧 and experience pain, your sense of taste may be affected and food could taste bland.

Embodied Cognition is the influence of bodily sensations on our psychological states (cognitive). For example, physical warmth often promotes social warmth, and you grow a connection with the person you may be hugging 🤗

Synesthesia is a condition where one sensation produces another. For example, when somebody says they can taste a color, they have synesthesia.

All in all, our senses work together to help us survive in any environment!

Check your Understanding

Here are some simple multiple choice questions taken from a quizizz made by rlepore.

  1. Kinesthesis involves:

    1. The bones of the inner ear

    2. Membranes within the cochlea

    3. Information from muscles, tendons and joints

    4. The body's sense of balance

  2. What behavior would be difficult without our vestibular sense?

    1. Walking a straight line with our eyes closed

    2. Writing our name

    3. Integrating what we see and hear

    4. Repeating a list of digits.


1) information from muscles, tendons, and joints

2) walking a straight line with our eyes closed

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