CogniFit's Science blog: Perception – How Do We Understand The World Around Us

Perception – How Do We Understand The World Around Us

Perception is a term which comes from the Latin. It is defined as a process where we can achieve awareness or understanding of our environment by organizing it our mind and interpreting sensory input such as visual cues, sounds, smells and touch. Let’s discuss this interesting topic further.

Perception is much more than a simple response to external stimuli. So while our eyes can sense light and transmit it to our brains, it is our perception which turns this input into something we can understand and appreciate like a beautiful painting.

Or sounds can be sensed as stimuli generated when our ears are vibrated by sound. Our perception can treat these vibrations as random noise or they can be interpreted as beautiful music.

However it should be understood that all perception involves different signals in our nervous system which come from the physical stimulation of our sense organs. If we touch a hot surface, we learn to understand that it “feels” hot and may need to be avoided. Or if it is not so hot as to be damaging, we can appreciate the warmth and be comforted by it.

Perception is a highly complex process but it generally occurs on the subconscious level meaning that we don’t really have to “think” about it.

The development of experimental psychology has done a great deal towards increasing our understanding and appreciation of perception. There have been a number of techniques developed over the years to help to measure and quantify perception based on varying degrees of input.

For the most part, our senses were viewed as passive receptors. However studies of illusion and ambiguous images and objects have shown that the brain can take an active role in changing how it perceives things.

Perception enables us to properly understand the world around us even though we may be receiving incomplete sensory information. We can help to fill in the blanks in many cases.

And perception allows one sense to influence another. For example it has been shown that taste can be strongly influenced by odor. So it is a complex and fascinating interrelationship.

Perception may not necessarily reflect reality. In many cases we see, hear or feel what we want to perceive. This is what makes life interesting and allows us as individuals to perceive things very differently.

As indicated earlier, the study of perception is an element form of psychology and cognition. It very much helps us to understand how we perceive and respond to things and very often helps to define who we are as individuals.