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All perception involves signals that go through the nervous system , which in turn result from physical or chemical stimulation of the sensory system. Perception is not only the passive receipt of these signals, but it's also shaped by the recipient's learning , memory , expectation , and attention. Perception can be split into two processes, [5] 1 processing the sensory input, which transforms these low-level information to higher-level information e. Perception depends on complex functions of the nervous system, but subjectively seems mostly effortless because this processing happens outside conscious awareness.

Since the rise of experimental psychology in the 19th Century, psychology's understanding of perception has progressed by combining a variety of techniques. Perceptual systems can also be studied computationally , in terms of the information they process. Perceptual issues in philosophy include the extent to which sensory qualities such as sound, smell or color exist in objective reality rather than in the mind of the perceiver.

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Although the senses were traditionally viewed as passive receptors, the study of illusions and ambiguous images has demonstrated that the brain's perceptual systems actively and pre-consciously attempt to make sense of their input. The perceptual systems of the brain enable individuals to see the world around them as stable, even though the sensory information is typically incomplete and rapidly varying. Human and animal brains are structured in a modular way , with different areas processing different kinds of sensory information.

Some of these modules take the form of sensory maps , mapping some aspect of the world across part of the brain's surface. These different modules are interconnected and influence each other. For instance, taste is strongly influenced by smell. The process of perception begins with an object in the real world, termed the distal stimulus or distal object. These sensory organs transform the input energy into neural activity—a process called transduction.

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An example would be a shoe. The shoe itself is the distal stimulus. When light from the shoe enters a person's eye and stimulates the retina, that stimulation is the proximal stimulus. Another example would be a telephone ringing. The ringing of the telephone is the distal stimulus.

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The sound stimulating a person's auditory receptors is the proximal stimulus, and the brain's interpretation of this as the ringing of a telephone is the percept. The different kinds of sensation such as warmth, sound, and taste are called sensory modalities. Psychologist Jerome Bruner has developed a model of perception.

According to him, people go through the following process to form opinions: According to Alan Saks and Gary Johns , there are three components to perception. Stimuli are not necessarily translated into a percept and rarely does a single stimulus translate into a percept. An ambiguous stimulus may be translated into multiple percepts, experienced randomly, one at a time, in what is called multistable perception. And the same stimuli, or absence of them, may result in different percepts depending on subject's culture and previous experiences.

Ambiguous figures demonstrate that a single stimulus can result in more than one percept; for example the Rubin vase which can be interpreted either as a vase or as two faces. The percept can bind sensations from multiple senses into a whole. A picture of a talking person on a television screen, for example, is bound to the sound of speech from speakers to form a percept of a talking person.

In the case of visual perception, some people can actually see the percept shift in their mind's eye. The 'esemplastic' nature has been shown by experiment: This confusing ambiguity of perception is exploited in human technologies such as camouflage , and also in biological mimicry , for example by European peacock butterflies , whose wings bear eyespots that birds respond to as though they were the eyes of a dangerous predator.

There is also evidence that the brain in some ways operates on a slight "delay", to allow nerve impulses from distant parts of the body to be integrated into simultaneous signals. Perception is one of the oldest fields in psychology. The oldest quantitative laws in psychology are Weber's law — which states that the smallest noticeable difference in stimulus intensity is proportional to the intensity of the reference — and Fechner's law which quantifies the relationship between the intensity of the physical stimulus and its perceptual counterpart for example, testing how much darker a computer screen can get before the viewer actually notices.

The study of perception gave rise to the Gestalt school of psychology, with its emphasis on holistic approach. Perceptual constancy is the ability of perceptual systems to recognize the same object from widely varying sensory inputs. A coin looked at face-on makes a circular image on the retina, but when held at angle it makes an elliptical image. Without this correction process, an animal approaching from the distance would appear to gain in size.

The brain compensates for this, so the speed of contact does not affect the perceived roughness. The principles of grouping or Gestalt laws of grouping are a set of principles in psychology , first proposed by Gestalt psychologists to explain how humans naturally perceive objects as organized patterns and objects. Gestalt psychologists argued that these principles exist because the mind has an innate disposition to perceive patterns in the stimulus based on certain rules.

These principles are organized into six categories: The principle of proximity states that, all else being equal, perception tends to group stimuli that are close together as part of the same object, and stimuli that are far apart as two separate objects. The principle of similarity states that, all else being equal, perception lends itself to seeing stimuli that physically resemble each other as part of the same object, and stimuli that are different as part of a different object.


This allows for people to distinguish between adjacent and overlapping objects based on their visual texture and resemblance. The principle of closure refers to the mind's tendency to see complete figures or forms even if a picture is incomplete, partially hidden by other objects, or if part of the information needed to make a complete picture in our minds is missing.

For example, if part of a shape's border is missing people still tend to see the shape as completely enclosed by the border and ignore the gaps. The principle of good continuation makes sense of stimuli that overlap: The principle of common fate groups stimuli together on the basis of their movement. When visual elements are seen moving in the same direction at the same rate, perception associates the movement as part of the same stimulus. This allows people to make out moving objects even when other details, such as color or outline, are obscured.

The principle of good form refers to the tendency to group together forms of similar shape, pattern, color , etc. A common finding across many different kinds of perception is that the perceived qualities of an object can be affected by the qualities of context. If one object is extreme on some dimension, then neighboring objects are perceived as further away from that extreme.

The contrast effect was noted by the 17th Century philosopher John Locke , who observed that lukewarm water can feel hot or cold, depending on whether the hand touching it was previously in hot or cold water. With experience, organisms can learn to make finer perceptual distinctions, and learn new kinds of categorization. Wine-tasting, the reading of X-ray images and music appreciation are applications of this process in the human sphere.

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Research has focused on the relation of this to other kinds of learning , and whether it takes place in peripheral sensory systems or in the brain's processing of sense information. Specifically, these practices enable perception skills to switch from the external exteroceptive field towards a higher ability to focus on internal signals proprioception. Also, when asked to provide verticality judgments, highly self-transcendent yoga practitioners were significantly less influenced by a misleading visual context.

Increasing self-transcendence may enable yoga practitioners to optimize verticality judgment tasks by relying more on internal vestibular and proprioceptive signals coming from their own body, rather than on exteroceptive, visual cues. A perceptual set , also called perceptual expectancy or just set is a predisposition to perceive things in a certain way. Subjects who were told to expect words about animals read it as "seal", but others who were expecting boat-related words read it as "sail".

Sets can be created by motivation and so can result in people interpreting ambiguous figures so that they see what they want to see. They were told that either a number or a letter would flash on the screen to say whether they were going to taste an orange juice drink or an unpleasant-tasting health drink. In fact, an ambiguous figure was flashed on screen, which could either be read as the letter B or the number When the letters were associated with the pleasant task, subjects were more likely to perceive a letter B, and when letters were associated with the unpleasant task they tended to perceive a number Perceptual set has been demonstrated in many social contexts.

People who are primed to think of someone as "warm" are more likely to perceive a variety of positive characteristics in them, than if the word "warm" is replaced by "cold". For example, people with an aggressive personality are quicker to correctly identify aggressive words or situations. One classic psychological experiment showed slower reaction times and less accurate answers when a deck of playing cards reversed the color of the suit symbol for some cards e. Philosopher Andy Clark explains that perception, although it occurs quickly, is not simply a bottom-up process where minute details are put together to form larger wholes.

Instead, our brains use what he calls ' predictive coding '. It starts with very broad constraints and expectations for the state of the world, and as expectations are met, it makes more detailed predictions errors lead to new predictions, or learning processes. Clark says this research has various implications; not only can there be no completely "unbiased, unfiltered" perception, but this means that there is a great deal of feedback between perception and expectation perceptual experiences often shape our beliefs, but those perceptions were based on existing beliefs [40].

Indeed, predictive coding provides an account where this type of feedback assists in stabilizing our inference-making process about the physical world, such as with perceptual constancy examples. Cognitive theories of perception assume there is a poverty of stimulus. This with reference to perception is the claim that sensations are, by themselves, unable to provide a unique description of the world. A different type of theory is the perceptual ecology approach of James J.

His theory "assumes the existence of stable, unbounded, and permanent stimulus-information in the ambient optic array. And it supposes that the visual system can explore and detect this information. The theory is information-based, not sensation-based.


An ecological understanding of perception derived from Gibson's early work is that of "perception-in-action", the notion that perception is a requisite property of animate action; that without perception, action would be unguided, and without action, perception would serve no purpose. Animate actions require both perception and motion, and perception and movement can be described as "two sides of the same coin, the coin is action". Gibson works from the assumption that singular entities, which he calls "invariants", already exist in the real world and that all that the perception process does is to home in upon them.

A view known as constructivism held by such philosophers as Ernst von Glasersfeld regards the continual adjustment of perception and action to the external input as precisely what constitutes the "entity", which is therefore far from being invariant. Glasersfeld considers an "invariant" as a target to be homed in upon, and a pragmatic necessity to allow an initial measure of understanding to be established prior to the updating that a statement aims to achieve.

The invariant does not and need not represent an actuality, and Glasersfeld describes it as extremely unlikely that what is desired or feared by an organism will never suffer change as time goes on. This social constructionist theory thus allows for a needful evolutionary adjustment. A mathematical theory of perception-in-action has been devised and investigated in many forms of controlled movement, and has been described in many different species of organism using the General Tau Theory. According to this theory, tau information, or time-to-goal information is the fundamental 'percept' in perception.

Many philosophers, such as Jerry Fodor, write that the purpose of perception is knowledge, but evolutionary psychologists hold that its primary purpose is to guide action. Building and maintaining sense organs is metabolically expensive, so these organs evolve only when they improve an organism's fitness. Scientists who study perception and sensation have long understood the human senses as adaptations. Evolutionary psychologists claim that perception demonstrates the principle of modularity, with specialized mechanisms handling particular perception tasks.

A sensory system is a part of the nervous system responsible for processing sensory information. A sensory system consists of sensory receptors , neural pathways , and parts of the brain involved in sensory perception. Commonly recognized sensory systems are those for vision , hearing , somatic sensation touch , taste and olfaction smell. It has been suggested that the immune system is an overlooked sensory modality. The receptive field is the specific part of the world to which a receptor organ and receptor cells respond.

For instance, the part of the world an eye can see, is its receptive field; the light that each rod or cone can see, is its receptive field. Research attention is currently focused not only on external perception processes, but also to "Interoception", considered as the process of receiving, accessing and appraising internal bodily signals. Interoception is an iterative process, requiring the interplay between perception of body states and awareness of these states to generate proper self-regulation.

Afferent sensory signals continuously interact with higher order cognitive representations of goals, history, and environment, shaping emotional experience and motivating regulatory behavior. In many ways, vision is the primary human sense. Light is taken in through each eye and focused in a way which sorts it on the retina according to direction of origin. A dense surface of photosensitive cells, including rods, cones, and intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells captures information about the intensity, color, and position of incoming light.

Some processing of texture and movement occurs within the neurons on the retina before the information is sent to the brain. In total, about 15 differing types of information are then forwarded to the brain proper via the optic nerve. Hearing or audition is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations.

Frequencies capable of being heard by humans are called audio or sonic. The auditory system includes the outer ears which collect and filter sound waves, the middle ear for transforming the sound pressure impedance matching , and the inner ear which produces neural signals in response to the sound.

By the ascending auditory pathway these are led to the primary auditory cortex within the temporal lobe of the human brain, which is where the auditory information arrives in the cerebral cortex and is further processed there.

Use 'perception' in a Sentence

Sound does not usually come from a single source: You might've seen this one before. The story of an imaginary word that managed to sneak past our editors and enter the dictionary. How we chose 'feminism'. How to use a word that literally drives some people nuts. The awkward case of 'his or her'.

Test your visual vocabulary with our question challenge! Build a chain of words by adding one letter at a time. Choose the Right Synonym for perception discernment , discrimination , perception , penetration , insight , acumen mean a power to see what is not evident to the average mind. Examples of perception in a Sentence It is ironic that the impact of smoking on nonsmokers, rather than on smokers themselves, is what finally transformed the regulation and cultural perception of the cigarette.

Brandt , The Cigarette Century , Some drugs cause blurred vision and changes in color perception , or increased tears. No one is taught to value himself for nice perception and cultivated taste. First Known Use of perception 14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2. History and Etymology for perception Latin perception-, perceptio act of perceiving, from percipere — see perceive.

Learn More about perception. Resources for perception Time Traveler! Explore the year a word first appeared. From the Editors at Merriam-Webster. How Perceptive of You, Part 2: More Words About Perception Seeming is sometimes believing. How Perceptive of You: Words About Perception There's more than meets the eye. Dictionary Entries near perception percept percepta perceptible perception perceptionism perceptionist perceptive. Time Traveler for perception The first known use of perception was in the 14th century See more words from the same century.

More Definitions for perception. English Language Learners Definition of perception. Kids Definition of perception. More from Merriam-Webster on perception See words that rhyme with perception Thesaurus:

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