What is Perception?

Perception means our capability to see, hear and observe something using our senses. It implies giving meaning to our surroundings. It is the process of seeing, observing, choosing, getting, interpreting and adding meaning to the environment. Further, it is influenced by our beliefs, goals and external stimuli.

It is experienced by way of intuition. It is a cognitive process which allows the other person to make sense of stimuli in the environment. The stimuli affect various senses like sight, touch, smell, taste and hearing. In other words, perception is the source through which a person knows the world.

Table of Contents

  1. Perceptual Process
  2. Factors Influencing Perception
  3. Common Perceptual Errors
  4. Wrap Up

Perceptual Process


Receiving Stimuli

The process of perception begins with receiving the stimuli, which can take place through multiple sources. Our sensory organs help us see, hear, smell, taste and touch things. Hence, we could say the reception of stimuli is a physiological characteristic of the perceptual process.

Selection of Stimuli

There are numerous stimuli, which we encounter on a daily basis. However, we cannot absorb all that we observe or receive from the surrounding. Therefore, some of the stimuli are chosen for further processing to add meaning, while the remaining ones are filtered out. Here, the selection of stimuli does not take place randomly, rather it depends upon two factors. These are either internal factors and external factors.

  • Internal Factors: Such factors are related to the perceiver such as age, learning, knowledge and interest.
  • External Factors: They are concerned with stimuli like intensity of stimuli, size, movement and repetition.

Generally, human beings perceive objects that attract or interest them in a specific situation and keep away from indifferent ones. This is what we call selective perception.

Organization of Stimuli

Once the stimuli are selected, they must be arranged in some manner. This is necessary for adding meaning to it. Hence, arranging the bits and pieces of the data collected into meaningful information is called organization. We can do so by way of:

  • Grouping: It is the categorization of the stimuli, depending upon the similarity or closeness of different stimuli perceived.
  • Closure: If we store incomplete information, we need to fill in the blanks so as to make it meaningful. People complete this information on the basis of experiences, guesses or past data. This process of completing the message by way of filling the gaps is called closure.
  • Simplification: There are instances when we are overloaded with information. Then we generally try to make it simple so as make it meaningful and easy to grasp. Hence, less salient information is eliminated by us and focus is made on the vital information only.
  • Interpretation: The data which a person gathers and organizes has no meaning for the perceiver until some meaning is added to it. When we assign meaning to the data it is called interpretation. Therefore, in the entire perceptual process data is among the most important element.

Factors Influencing Perception


Internal Factors

  1. Needs and Desires: A person’s perception regarding stimuli is affected by his own needs and desires. Therefore, perception differs on the basis of needs and desires from one point in time to another.
  2. Personality: It influences what is attended to or perceived in a specific situation. Various studies have proved that secure individuals take others as warm. On the other hand, self-accepting individuals take others as wanted and accepted by others.
  3. Experience: The basis of perception is experience and knowledge. The successful experience of a person improves his perceptive ability. Furthermore, it helps the perceiver understands it more accurately.

External Factors

  1. Size: The larger the object, the greater will be its likelihood of being perceived. Hence, size catches the attention of the individual. You might have observed that a full-page advertisement draws more attention than a few lines in the classified section of the newspaper.
  2. Intensity: It is also associated with size. It implies that the more intense the stimuli are, the more will be the probability to be perceived. Have you seen that a loud noise catches more attention than a soft and slow one? Superiors generally yell at subordinates to draw attention.
  3. Frequency: It implies that the if the frequency of the stimuli is high, i.e. if the stimulus occurs repeatedly, then it is more attention-grabbing than the single one. Hence, the advertisers always repeat the advertisement to draw the attention of the consumers towards the product.
  4. Contrast: This principle says that the stimuli which stand out from the crowd will get more attention. For instance, if the companies are offering chemical products, then the ones offering organic products often receive more attention.
  5. Status: An individual’s status is also one of the factors that affect his/her perception concerning products and events. Studies have shown that people with high status have a greater influence on the perception of the individual. That is why advertisers use celebrities and sports personalities to for endorsing their products.
  6. Movement: Objects in motion gets more attention than stationary one. You might have seen an Audi or BMW often attracts more people than one standing in the parking.

Common Perceptual Errors


  • Perceptual Defence: You might have observed that people tend to resist ideas, events and situations which are threatening or challenging, this is what we call perceptual defence.
  • Stereotyping: The quality of assigning attributes, particularly on the basis of the category of people, to which he or she belongs. Here what we actually do is judge the other person because of the perception of the group from which he is coming. For example, Females are not good vehicle drivers.
  • Halo Effect: A process in which a person perceives the other person specifically on the basis of a single characteristic which could be favourable or unfavourable. For example: If someone is punctual, he is disciplined too.
  • Projection: People do have a tendency of seeing their own virtues in others and believing that they have the same belief and attitudes as them.
  • Expectancy Effect: It is the degree to which our expectation bias the way we perceive events, objects and people.
  • Self-fulfilling prophecy: Believing that something will happen and adjusting the behaviour accordingly, which ultimately makes it real. For Example Bank Run.

Wrap Up

Perception implies the identification, organization and interpretation of sensory data for understanding and interpreting the environment. It is a complex phenomenon that our past experiences influence.

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