By James Balmond

Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This boils down to cause and effect. Catalyst and consequence. Stimulation and response. Take a puddle of water for example. The water takes up a fixed volume. The molecular mass lies inert. Everything is still. Now throw a stone into that same puddle. The stone has a mass and volume. Consequently, it displaces the water on impact creating a ripple. This is the starting point of a chain reaction, as one ripple leads to another ripple, which leads to another ripple and so on – a feedback loop of causality and outcome. Stimulus and response.

The concept of causality isn’t some external scientific rule. A law confined to the pages of a textbook. Rather it is one of the fundamental principals driving everything around us, from human evolution to the rise and fall of the tides. However the causal dichotomy runs even deeper. It is the mechanic shaping human experience. Or to put it differently, it is the engineering behind our perception of reality and thus, our very sense of being. Stimulus and response is quintessentially existential.

Once we start to analyse the nature of reality, or more specifically the relationship between the physical world, perception and the brain, the significance of the stimulus-response mechanism comes into view. The French Renaissance philosopher Montaigne argued that there is no such thing as objective reality, as reality, how we see it, is filtered and formulated by the senses and the brain, so it is objectively fallible. In summation reality is subjective, unique to each individual. So how does this subjectivity come about? 

As human beings we have two groups of internal circuits functioning within the stimulus-response paradigm. The first group of circuits is known as the motor group, which sends information to the muscles and glands. The second circuit group is called the sensory group (sight, touch, hearing, smell and taste) bringing information to the nervous system and brain. In sensory circuits the causal chain is something like this; there’s a stimulus, that particular stimulus is detected by a sensory circuit, which in turn sends a signal to the brain triggering a response.

Let’s use sight as an example. Say we walk into a gallery and see a yellow canvas on the wall. The canvas isn’t actually yellow per se; rather the canvas is reflecting yellow wavelengths of light. This light is a stimulus that is detected by a sensory circuit (in this case our visual system) within the eye. A high-resolution image of the yellow canvas forms in the retina and our brain responds to this signal, through a series of intricate operations in the cerebral cortex, transforming the visual stimulus into our subjective perception of the object. This process also triggers internal sensations and emotive responses. We see a yellow canvas and we feel its effects.

We are looking at one sensory stimulus-response model for rhetorical purposes. The reality is even more awe-inspiring. In our natural environment, the brain is exposed to a constant influx of stimulatory signals through all our senses simultaneously, and it responds thousands of times a second almost instantaneously. So we are constantly ‘constructing’ our reality through a process of absorbing, decoding, interpreting and reconstructing. A subjective world formed through sensory experience. Stimulus and response the lifeblood of reality itself. 

The point is that we need stimulation to thrive. Our brains and nervous systems are a constant hum of electrical activity, and they respond to the world around them. On brain scans, we see areas of the brain light up in response to different kinds of stimulation. Interaction with the world around us is what our bodies are designed to do, and we need stimulation to lead happy and healthy lives. The positive effects of external stimulae are numerous ranging from increased mental capacity, concentration, alertness and memory recall to improved co-ordination, fitness and health, communication and problem solving. Various scientific studies also indicate that there are many more intangible benefits to external stimulae that are harder to quantify, such as augmented spiritual balance, improved feelings of well being and prolonged sensations of inner contentment. Essentially there is no doubting the importance of the stimulus-response reaction in our development.

The COVID-19 crisis is forcing us all to re-examine our connection to our surroundings. Due to the initially imposed lockdown, as well as the continuing social distancing and even self-isolation for some, we are no longer exposed to the same volume and frequency of external stimulae. To rephrase, many of us no longer have the same kind of access to the spaces, communities and activities that play a key role in our lives and well being. So now more than ever, it is important to create new and additional forms of stimulation within our spaces. The objective is achievable with just a few simple actions. This is because, as we have mentioned before, space isn’t some independent physical entity separate from humanity. Rather it exists in relation to us. In other words, it is human beings that infuse space with meaning. As circumstances evolve and our needs change, new desires lead to a reinterpretation of spatial possibilities, and we take actions to create new spatial stimulae and experiences to meet these needs. 

Colour Plattes To Consider For Your Home 

Here are the main four colour palettes to consider.

1.1 Monochromatic

Different shades and depths of a single colour. These palettes are often simplest colour schemes to create, as they’re all taken from the same colour. However, note that monochromatic palettes can be a little dull when done poorly.

1.2. Analogous

A main colour and the colours from either side of it on the colour wheel. These palettes offer a consistency and uniformity within your design. There isn’t a large differentiation in colour here, rather contrast is created through the variations in colour shade.

1.3 Complementary

Opposite colours from the colour wheel (like red and green, blue and orange, etc.). Complementary palettes communicate a sense of balance and adding various tints and shades can expand your scheme further.


Three colours from equidistant points on the colour wheel (like red, yellow, and blue). The triadic approach produces a more diverse palette. This takes a little more planning and experimentation because it involves a larger number of colours that oppose each other.

20th August, 2020 Applied Art

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