What is Perception?

Perception is the organization and interpretation of sensation. In other words, perception is the process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting the information we receive from our sense organs.

Stages of Perception

Perception happens in three steps:

  1. Selection
  2. Organization
  3. Interpretation

    A. Selection: The external environment consists of a large amount of information. Our brain tends to focus only on the information that is relevant to us, and it brings one or a few stimuli into the radar.

    B. Organization: Once the stimuli are sorted (correctly arranged), they are compared with existing knowledge.

    C. Interpretation: Our brain gives meaning to meaningless stimuli and makes use of the raw sensory data.

Do we perceive things differently?

Perception is a subjective experience, and each individual perceives the sensory information differently.

  • Each individual perceives the same situation differently.
  • Perception depends upon the needs, values, expectations, and past experiences.
  • As a result, it differs from person to person.

Processing of sensory information?

There are two ways by which the sensory data are processed by the brain.

1. Bottom-up processing
2. Top-down processing

Bottom-up processing

Bottom-up processing is also called data-driven processing. Bottom-up processing comes to work when we encounter an ambiguous stimulus.

It consists of the progression of recognizing and processing information from individual components and moving to the perception of the whole (Feldman, 2014).

Just remember how we learn to write the Nepali alphabet ‘क’. First, we draw a half circle, then a vertical line, then the remaining portion of half circle followed by a horizontal line above all these shapes. This is an example of bottom-up processing.

Top-down Processing

Ca- yo- re-d t-is se-te-ce?

Top-down processing is also referred to as concept-driven processing. In this type of processing, we use our previous knowledge, experiences, and other cognitive processes to gain meaningful perception.

For example, in the previous sentence, although every third letter was missing, we were still ever to figure out the meaning of this sentence because of our prior reading experience.

Picture credit Coren & Ward, 1989

Even though the symbols for B and 13 are identical, we tend to read them as B and 13, respectively.

Note- The top-down, and bottom-up processing occurs simultaneously and helps us to perceive the world around us.