Perception: Approaches and Perceptual Organisation 


We often hear our elders saying that “what you see, hear or feel is not always what it seems”. What did they mean by that? There is an interesting mental process, constantly going on that is responsible for shaping our reality, acting as a master illusionist, it’s unique to all of us. Our differences, beliefs, attitudes, and learnings all contribute to the way we perceive the outside world.

Perception can be described as our interpretation of the world around us. Our way of giving meaning to the stimulus we receive from the outside environment. It can be one of the factors contributing to the type of personality you have, the ability to make crucial decisions etc. Perception as a mental process involves the selection, organisation and interpretation of sensory information to have a meaningful understanding of our environments.

Read More: Media Psychology: Influence of Media on Behavior and Perception

Importance of Perception in Understanding the Environment 

Our perception equips us with a vision. All of us have a different understanding of the same world and it’s only because we perceive things differently. Our perception is what makes our reality unique from others by filtering and organising sensory information, allowing us to give meaning to complex stimuli and walk through the world efficiently. By having an understanding of how perception functions we will be able to gain insights into how others perceive the world, why are they unique to us, how our perception affects the world around us, our actions and our interactions with others. 

Applications of Perception in various fields 

Perception has an important role in various fields, especially when everything comes down to influencing and persuading people to behave a certain way, buy a certain commodity, follow a particular Trend etc. Knowing the dynamics of perception we can be playful with its application in persuading people, like most people on the internet are doing.

Psychologists take an interest in understanding cognitive processes behaviour and mental health by evaluating and assessing how perception influences our thoughts and actions. Even in the context of AI, perception plays a huge role in developing a system that can understand and respond to stimuli like humans. Designers make use of principles of perception to play with captivating graphics, communication strategies etc. 

Read More: Perception: The Art of Creativity

Approaches to Perception 

There have been various approaches to perception into play in our day-to-day lives that impact our understanding and perception of the world. Let’s know about some of them: 

  • Gestalt approach: Gestalt psychology proposed an approach that said we perceive the object as a whole rather than just the elements of that object. For instance, when we see a video we see it as a complete scene instead of the various elements it’s made of. Our brain tends to club all the constituents and naturally organizes them into one coherent image. 
  • Bottom-up processing: bottom-up processing says that we do focus on individual elements as we receive the sensory information, starting from the basic features we further move to more complex perception. For example, whenever we try a new dish our taste buds recognise the individual ingredients first and later combine them to Percieve, the actual final taste of the dish. 
  • Top-down processing: top-down processing makes us use pre-existing knowledge and expectations to break down or perceive sensory information. For example, when you hear a familiar song from further away, faintly, your brain still manages to recognise it based on pre-existing memory of that song.
  • Perceptual constancy: perception constancy tries to put emphasis on our ability to perceive an object in a constant shape or size or any feature even though the thing has undergone or variations over time. For example, we perceive the size of the car as constant no matter how close or far it is, because of size constancy. 
  • Perceptual organisation: Perceptual organisation is a phenomenon taking place to assemble the received information or stimuli in such a manner that our brain can give some meaning to it. This concept was proposed by Gestalt psychologists. 

Gestalt principles 

Gestalt psychology came up with four principles or laws as follows: 

  1. Law of Similarity: we tend to perceive like objects together as a part of one group. 
  2. Law of proximity: we tend to perceive the objects as belonging together when they are kept close to each other.
  3. Law of continuity: we tend to address or perceive smooth, continuous patterns and not the disjoined ones.
  4. Law of closure: we tend to fill in the missing parts of any visual stimuli to complete it. 
Figure-ground relationship 

This concept emphasizes our innate tendency to distinguish objects from their background. It’s important to focus on the main element in a scene in the context of visual perception. For example, we can see and differentiate that written content on the page is figure while the page itself is ground. There are many more like depth perception including binocular or monocular cues. Depth perception is helpful in our day-to-day life while driving, judging distance etc. then there is motion perception and constancy.

Perception is such an interesting yet subtly existing mental process without this the world would be pointless. We should appreciate how our minds construct the environment’s reality and shape our day-to-day experiences.

Reference +
  • Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. (2024, May 15). Perception. Encyclopædia Britannica.
  • (PDF) perception theories. (n.d.-o).
  • Perception: Overview – researchgate. (n.d.-r).
  • Kendra Cherry, Mse. (2023a, February 1). How does perception work?. Verywell Mind.
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