Process of Perception

Perception is the intellectual process of transforming sensory stimuli into meaningful information, it consists of numerous sub-processes. Individuals can adopt an input-throughput output approach which states that the input in the environment when processed produces perceptual output. 

Environmental stimuli such as people, subjects, and incidents are termed inputs. The mechanisms used for the conversion of these inputs such as selection, organization, and interpretation can be considered throughputs. Beliefs, emotions, attitudes, etc. which influence a person’s Behaviour can be called perceptual outputs.

Inputs can also be classified into two types. One is physical stimuli that a person gets from the external surrounding. The second type is taken up by the person himself in the form of pre-disposition (hope, intentions, and knowledge) and is based on prior experiences.
Process of Perception- Perception process includes selecting, organizing and interpreting information

These two types of inputs provide every individual with a very special and exclusive image of the world which differs from the rest of the people. This perception of the world is unique for each individual as each individual has distinctive needs, wants, desires, beliefs, skills, etc. This is the reason why two people do not see the world in the same manner.

The perception process includes selecting, organizing and interpreting information.

The phases in the perceptual process include selectivity/selection and organization interpretation as shown in the figure.

Process of Perception- Perception process includes selecting, organizing and interpreting information


Elements in the Process of Perception

  • Exposure
  • Selectivity/Selection
  • Attention
  • Organization
  • Categorization
  • Interpretation
  • Inference

 1) Perceptual Selectivity/Selection: Every day we meet with numerous stimuli out of which we select only a few. Perceptual selectivity is the selection of certain stimuli from the environment and rejecting the others. This selection choice depicts our values, beliefs, and needs.

If an individual is not skilled in perceptual selectivity then he will be incompetent in processing the information as well. Two related processes which help in enhancing selectivity are as follows: 

  • i) Sensory Activation: Sensory activation states that there are only certain types of stimuli that activate our senses while others that are not loud, bright or strong, might go unnoticed.

  • ii) Sensory Adaptation: Sensory adaptation means people tend to adapt themselves to the environment with which they are in regular contact. For example, a person forgets the sound of a radio or television while doing routine activities.

Hence, the above two processes prevent certain stimuli from entering our perceptual systems. Stimuli that are left behind compete to gain focus. Certain internal as well as external factors play an important role in stimuli selection.



2) Perceptual Organisation: Once the stimulus is received, several activities occur in the perceptual process. The perceptual organization relies on these activities. A person generally does not observe the amount of light, sound, or colour linked to any event but he certainly observes an organized pattern, stimuli, or object attached to it.

The following factors affect perceptual organization:

i) Figure and Ground: The most essential type of perceptual organization is the figure-ground principle. It states that when a person perceives an object (thing or person), it occupies a separate space in the psychology of the individual.


ii) Perceptual Grouping: By grouping, the individual stimuli can be divided into significant samples. Factors affecting perceptual grouping are as follows: 

  • a) Similarity: This principle states that objects which look similar are perceived to be a part of the same group. For example, workers who wore the same uniform might have different personalities, still, they are perceived as the same. 
  • b) Proximity: This principle states that stimuli located near each other are perceived as a collective pattern. For example, Employees belonging to a department are usually perceived as a team due to their closeness in the workplace.
  • c) Closure: People have the tendency to perceive objects as a whole even when a part of them is missing as their perceptual process ignores the gaps created by sensory inputs. For example, while working on a project, the manager perceives that the entire team has agreed to it completely while, in fact, a few workers might have disagreed with it. Another example is shown in the following figure where some parts of the figures are incomplete, but as we are familiar with these shapes we can identify them as a whole.

  • OAD

  • d) Continuity: Continuity and closure are nearly similar but have a minute difference, Closure provides the missing stimuli, while the continuity principle states that a person may tend to observe the consistent arrangement of lines rather than perceiving it as an individual entity (figure). Continuity might result in monotonous thinking.

  • Figure 2.2: Continuity

  • e) Common Fate: This principle states that objects that move or work, in the same way, are treated as a unit. For example, a flock of birds, a herd of cattle, etc.


iii) Perceptual Constancy: Perceptual constancy is more complicated than perceptual organization. The world is a very complex and ever-changing place and constancy gives the individual a sense of stability. The world would become an unorganized and hectic place in absence of constancy.


iv) Perceptual Context: Perceptual context is the most complicated form of perceptual organization. A simple stimulus, object, situation, or person derives meaning from perceptual context. The context in which managers and workers observe various elements is provided by organizational culture and organizational structure. For example, gestures like a raised eyebrow, a pat on the back, a handshake, a verbal order, or a new policy convey a special message to the employees.


v) Perceptual Defence: Perceptual context and perceptual defence are closely related to each other. People can be defensive towards stimuli or towards a dangerous situation. Perceptual defence is very essential in analyzing relationships between union management and supervisor-subordinate. It is confirmed by many studies. These studies conclude that people must try to ignore incompatible, dangerous, and improper situations.


3) Perceptual Interpretation: Selection and organization of data is followed by its interpretation. Perception is believed to occur only after the data is interpreted because it gives meaning to the received and simplified data. Every individual interprets stimuli in his own manner which is usually influenced by his experiences.

Stimuli are usually vague and hence can be interpreted in a manner that fulfils every individual’s personal needs, intentions, and interests. The gap between a person’s interpretation and reality depends on how clear the stimulus is, perceived prior experiences, and his thought process.

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