lateral inhibitions : LUSENET : History & Theory of Psychology : One Thread

Hi i was wondering what the tradeoffs are regarding the lateral inhibitions phenomenon???

-- Melanie (, February 20, 2004


You should look at a perception texbook for a full explanation, or a good dictionary of psychology, such as Harre & Lamb's, or Richard Gregory's _Oxford Compaion to the Mind_, or the APA Encyclopedia of Psychology.

Essentially, lateral inhibition is a neural phenomenon in which activity in neuron responsible for one area of a sensory field tend to inhibit activity in neurons responsible for adjoining area of the same sensory field. This sharpens the peerception of edges and other sudden changes in the visual field. The possible downside, is that it may *falsely* sharpen them (i.e., make them appear more prominent or sudden than they actually are in the world).

-- Christopher Green (, February 20, 2004.

Hi Melanie, Since we and many other animals already have lateral inhibition mechanisms built into our sensory systems (located in receptors or brains), one might assume that there is a high probability that such mechanisms are overall adaptive. While sensory lateral inhibition is probably important in appetitive motivation (e.g., identifying prey for food), it may more often be important in predator avoidance motivation, which may usually has more catastrophic consequences (e.g., getting eating). In other words, if a person has 10 sensory false positives for seeing a "poisonous snake" on their path when none is there, all they lose is a little time and energy avoiding something harmless (maybe commonly snake-looking sticks). However, one false negative (not seeing a snake on the path when one really is there), may lead to not seeing the snake and getting bitten (and maybe dying). This "hair-trigger recognition mechanism" (based in part on lateral inhabition) probably has a net adaptive effect, usually costing the person or animal only a little energy or a short delay of rewards. This sensory bias for "overdetection", may also be life saving in appetitive motivation for a starving animal or an animal that rarely runs into its prey or mates (e.g., maybe some animals that live in the open ocean or at great depths).

-- Paul Kleinginna (, February 22, 2004.

Hi again Melanie, I wanted to add to my answer to your question about the tradeoffs involving having lateral inhibition mechanisms in sensory systems. A more general "strategy" that may be at least partly built into predator avoidance motivation (and may possibly apply to some other dangerous avoidances) is called the Dinner/Life principle. According to this principle, it is better in the long run for many species to be cautious and sometimes pass up a chance for a meal (Dinner), in order to prevent putting themselves at too much risk of being killed (Life) by a predator of their species.

-- Paul Kleinginna (, February 23, 2004.

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