The knowledge that sensation and perception differ across species has also influenced the biggest and perhaps most important field in all of psychology: learning theory. The so-called laws of learning were derived from observations of animals during the acquisition of associations between two previously unassociated stimuli, between a stimulus and a response, or between a behavior and a consequent change in the environment. These laws were originally thought to generalize equally with regard to all species and all stimuli. This belief, along with the prevailing Zeitgeist which held that learning was the basis of all behavior, led to the assumption that studies of any animal could serve as a sufficient model for discovering the principles guiding human learning and behavior. It is now known that such is not the case.
Although laws of learning do generalize nicely in the acquisition of associations between biologically neutral stimuli, each animal's sensory apparatus is designed specifically to sense those stimuli that are relevant for its lifestyle. How it perceives those stimuli will also be related to its lifestyle. Therefore, the meaning of a particular stimulus may be different for different species, so results from studies on one animal cannot be generalized to another; neither can results from studies using one stimulus or stimulus modality be generalized to another.
Finally, it is important to note that scientific inquiry itself is dependent upon human understanding of the human senses. Scientific method is based on the philosophy of empiricism, which states that knowledge must be obtained by direct experience using the physical senses (or extensions of them). In short, all scientific data are collected through the physical senses; thus, the entirety of scientific knowledge is ultimately based upon, and limited by, human understanding of, and the limitations of, the human senses.
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