Perception: Definition, Importance, Factors, Perceptual Process, Errors

Perception: Definition, Importance, Factors, Perceptual Process, Errors

Perception is the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information to represent and understand the environment.

All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical or chemical stimulation of the sense organs. It is not the passive receipt of these signals but is shaped by learning, memory, expectation, and attention.

The study of these perceptual processes shows that their functioning is affected by three variables: the objects or events being perceived, the environment in which perception occurs, and the individual doing the perceiving.

What is Perception

Perception depends on complex nervous system functions but subjectively seems mostly effortless because this processing happens outside of conscious awareness.

According to Joseph Reitz, “Perception includes all those processes by which an individual receives information about his environment—seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling.”

According to B. V. H. Gilmer, “Perception is the process of becoming aware of situations, of adding meaningful associations to sensations.”

Uday Pareek said perception can be defined as “the process of receiving, selecting, organizing, interpreting, checking, and reacting to sensory stimuli or data.”

According to S. P. Robbins, perception can be defined as “the process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory impressions to give meaning to their environments.”

Perception includes the five senses; touch, sight, taste, smell, and sound. It also includes what is known as perception, a set of senses involving the ability to detect changes in body positions and movements.

It also involves the cognitive processes required to process information, such as recognizing a friend’s face or detecting a familiar perfume.

The study of these perpetual processes shows that their functioning is affected by three variables: the objects or events being perceived, the environment in which perception occurs, and the individual doing the perceiving.

In simple words, we can say that perception is the act of seeing what is there to be seen.

But what is seen is influenced by the perceiver, the object, and the environment. The meaning of perception emphasizes all these three points.

Importance of Perception

Perception is a subjective, active, and creative process through which we assign meaning to sensory information to understand ourselves and others. It can be defined as our recognition and interpretation of sensory information. It also includes how we respond to the information.

It is the process by which an organism detects and interprets information from the external world by means of the sensory receptors. It is our sensory experience of the world around us and involves both the recognition of environmental stimuli and actions in response to these stimuli.

Through the perceptual process, we gain information about the properties and elements of the environment that are critical to our survival.

Perception not only creates our experience of the world around us; it allows us to act within our environment.

  1. Perception is very important in understanding human behavior because every person perceives the world and approaches life problems differently. Whatever we see or feel is not necessarily the same as it really is. When we buy something, it is not because it is the best, but because we take it to be the best.
  2. If people behave based on their perception, we can predict their behavior in the changed circumstances by understanding their present perception of the environment. One person may view the facts in one way, which may be different from the facts seen by another viewer.
  3. With the help of perception, the needs of various people can be determined because their needs influence people’s perceptions.
  4. Perception is very important for the manager who wants to avoid making errors when dealing with people and events in the work setting. This problem is made more complicated by the fact that different people perceive the same situation differently. In order to deal with subordinates effectively, managers must understand their perceptions properly.
  5. Perception can be important because it offers more than objective output; it ingests an observation and manufactures an altered reality enriched with previous experiences.
  6. Perception builds character (not necessarily good or bad character) that defines different roles individuals fall into the clown, the hypocrite, the self-righteous, the victim, etc.
  7. It is vitally important if we want to get along with others to try to see things from their perspective or walk in their shoes for a while. If we walk in their shoes, we will gain a new perspective about things and, in that, understand the other and also can love and help the other more appropriately.

Thus, for understanding human behavior, it is very important to understand their perception, that is, how they perceive different situations.

People’s behavior is based on their perceptions of reality, not reality itself. The world, as it is perceived, is the world that is important for understanding human behavior.

Factors Affecting Perception

Factors Affecting Perception

Perception is how an individual selects, organizes, and interprets information to create a meaningful picture.

Perception depends not only on the physical stimuli but also on the stimuli’s relation to the surrounding field and on conditions within the individual. Perception is a process by which individuals organize and interpret their sensory perceptions to give meaning to their environment.

However, what one perceives can be substantially different from objective reality. It is the process through which the information from the outside environment is selected, received, organized, and interpreted to make it meaningful.

This input of meaningful information results in decisions and actions. Several factors operate to shape and sometimes distort perception. These factors can reside in the perceiver in the object or target being perceived or in the context of the situation in which the perception is made.

When an individual looks at a target and attempts to interpret what he or she sees, that interpretation is heavily influenced by the personal characteristics of the individual perceiver.

Personal characteristics that affect perception include attitudes, personality, motives, interests, past experiences, and expectations.

Some factors influence the target, such as novelty, motion, sounds, size, background, proximity, similarity, etc.

Characteristics of the target being observed can affect what is perceived. Because targets are not looked at in isolation, the relationship of a target to its background also influences perception, as does our tendency to group close things and similar things together.

There are also some situational factors, like the time of perceiving others, work settings, social settings, etc., that influence the perception process.

Besides these, there are some other factors, like perceptual learning, which is based on past experiences or any special training that we get. Every one of us learns to emphasize some sensory inputs and ignore others.

Another factor is the mental set, which refers to preparedness or readiness to receive some sensory input.

Such expectancy keeps the individual prepared with good attention and concentration. The level of knowledge we have may also change the way we perceive their behaviors.

For example, if a person knows that her friend is stressed out over family problems, she might overlook her snappy comments. Learning has a considerable influence on perception.

It creates expectancy in people. The nature of the things that must be perceived is also an influential factor. By nature, we mean whether the object is visual or auditory and whether it involves pictures, people, or animals.

Perception is determined by both the physiological and psychological characteristics of the human being, whereas sensation is conceived with only the physiological features. Thus, perception is not just what one sees with the eyes.

It is a much more complex process by which an individual selectively absorbs or assimilates the stimuli in the environment, cognitively organizes the perceived information in a specific fashion, and then interprets the information to make an assessment of what is going on in one’s environment.

When an individual looks at a target and attempts to interpret what they see, that interpretation is heavily influenced by the personal characteristics of the individual perceiver.

Personal characteristics that affect perception include a person’s attitudes, personality motives interest, past experiences, and expectations.

Perceptual Process

The perceptual process allows us to experience the world around us.

In this overview of perception and the perceptual process, we will learn more about how we go from detecting stimuli in the environment to actually taking action based on that information. It can be organized into our existing structures and patterns and then interpreted based on previous experiences.

Although the perception is a largely cognitive and psychological process, how we perceive the people and objects around us affects our communication.

Actually perception process is a sequence of steps that begins with the environment and leads to our perception of a stimulus and action in response to the stimulus.

To fully understand how the perception process works, we must follow each of the following steps.

Stages of Perception

Stages of Perception

Three stages of the perception process are;

  1. Selection.
  2. Organization.
  3. Interpretation.

1. Selection

The world around us is filled with infinite stimuli that we might attend to, but our brains do not have the resources to pay attention to everything.

Thus, the first step of perception is the decision of what to attend to.

When we attend to one specific thing in our environment — whether it is a smell, a feeling, a sound, or something else entirely — it becomes the attended stimulus.

Selecting is the first part of the perception process, in which we focus our attention on certain incoming sensory information. In selection, we choose stimuli that attract our attention.

We focus on the ones that stand out to our senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch). We take information through all five of our senses, but our perceptual field includes so many stimuli that it is impossible for our brains to process and make sense of it all.

So, as information comes in through our senses, various factors influence what actually continues through the perception process.

2. Organization

Once we have chosen to attend to a stimulus in the environment, the choice sets off a series of reactions in our brains.

This neural process starts with the activation of our sensory receptors (touch, taste, smell, sight, and hearing).

Organizing is the second part of the perception process, in which we sort and categorize information that we perceive based on innate and learned cognitive patterns.

Three ways we sort things into patterns are by using proximity, similarity, and difference (Stanley, mo).

3. Interpretation

After we have attended to a stimulus, and our brains have received and organized the information, we interpret it in a way that makes sense using our existing information about the world Interpretation simply means that we take the information that we have sensed and organize and turn it into something that we can categorize.

By putting different stimuli into categories, we can better understand and react to the world around us.

Perception of others involves sensing, organizing, and interpreting information about people, and what they say and do. Sensation is a main characteristic of perception as it relates to outside input. In the perceptual process, firstly, the perceiver should select what will be perceived.

Then, the organization takes place when listeners identify the type of sound and compare it to other sounds heard in the past.

Interpretation and categorization are generally the most subjective areas of perception, as they involve decisions about whether listeners like what they hear and want to keep listening.

We make immediate evaluations that cause automatic judgments of positive and negative reactions toward others, which occur outside of our awareness.

The selection, organization, and interpretation of perceptions can differ among different people.

On the basis of these, the perceptual output, which means values, attitudes, behavior, etc., of the perceiver may differ.

Therefore, when people react differently in a situation, part of their behavior can be explained by examining their perceptual process and how their perceptions lead to their responses.

Errors in Perception

Errors in Perception

Perception is the process of analyzing and understanding a stimulus as it is. But it may not always be possible to perceive the stimuli as they are. Knowingly or unknowingly, we mistake the stimulus and perceive it wrongly.

Many times the prejudices in the individual, time of perception, unfavorable background, lack of clarity of stimulus, confusion, conflict in mind, and other factors are responsible for errors in perception.

There are some errors in perception;

  • Illusion.
  • Hallucination.
  • Halo Effect.
  • Stereotyping.
  • Similarity.
  • Horn Effect.
  • Contrast.


The illusion is a false perception. Here the person will mistake a stimulus and perceive it wrongly.

For example, in the dark, a rope is mistaken for a snake or vice versa. The voice of an unknown person is mistaken as a friend’s voice. A person standing at a distance who is not known may be perceived as a known person.


Sometimes we come across instances where the individual perceives some stimulus, even when it is not present.

This phenomenon is known as a hallucination. The person may see an object, person, etc. or he may listen to some voice though there are no objects and sounds in reality.

Selective Perception

Selective perception is when people selectively interpret what they see on the basis of their interests, background, experience, and attitudes.

It means any characteristics that make a person, object, or event stand out will increase the probability that it will be perceived.

Because it is impossible for us to assimilate everything we see, only certain stimuli can be taken in.

Halo Effect

The individual is evaluated on the basis of perceived positive quality, feature, or trait. A halo effect operates when we draw a general impression about an individual based on a single characteristic, such as intelligence, sociability, or appearance.

In other words, this is the tendency to rate a man uniformly high or low in other traits if he is extraordinarily high or low in one particular trait: If a worker has few absences, his supervisor might give him a high rating in all other areas of work.


People usually can fall into at least one general category based on physical or behavioral traits then they will be evaluated. When we judge someone on the basis of our perception of the group to which he or she belongs, we are using a shortcut called stereotyping.

For example, a boss might assume that a worker from a Middle East country is lazy and cannot meet performance objectives, even if the worker tried his best.


Often, people tend to seek out and rate those who are similar to themselves more positively. This tendency to approve of similarity may cause evaluators to give better ratings to employees who exhibit the same interests, work methods, points of view, or standards.

Horn Effect

When the individual is completely evaluated based on a negative quality or feature perceived, this results in an overall lower rating than an acceptable rate.

He is not formally dressed up in the office. That’s why he may be casual at work too.


The tendency to rate people relative to others rather than the individual performance he or she is doing. Rather will evaluate an employee by comparing that employee’s performance with other employees.

In the early 20th Century, Wilhelm Wundt identified contrast as a fundamental principle of perception, and since then, the effect has been confirmed in many different areas.

These effects shape visual qualities like color, brightness, and other kinds of perception, including how heavy an object feels. One experiment found that thinking of the name “Hitler” led to subjects rating a person as more hostile.

Basically, we use the above shortcuts when we judge others. Perceiving and interpreting what others do is burdensome. As a result, individuals develop techniques for making the task more manageable. Basically, we use the above shortcuts when we judge others.

These techniques are frequently valuable-they. They allow us to make accurate perceptions rapidly and provide valid data for projections. But sometimes, it also creates problems.

Because firstly, we have said that these are shortcuts. In these ways, we can judge others quickly, but sometimes we mistakenly judge others by these shortcuts.

When Perception Fails

when perception fails

Perception often provides a false interpretation of sensory information. Such cases are known as illusions. A term psychologists use to refer to incorrect perceptions.

There are two illusions; those due to physical processes and those due to cognitive processes. Illusions due to distortion of physical conditions include hallucination, in which an individual perceives objects which are non-existent, for example, water on a dry road.

Cognitive processes result in many illusions but more commonly shape illusions, often resulting in unsettling consequences. Consider a real-world example involving the Poggendorff illusion.

In this illusion, a line disappears at an angle behind a solid figure, reappearing on the other side at what seems to be the incorrect position. Incorrect perceptions of the world around them may lead to problems for personnel.

Budding managers who flame out do so because they fail to read situations properly and act accordingly. They develop poor working relationships, are too authoritarian, or have a conflict with upper management. As a result, their careers come to a screeching halt.

This should be avoided, and they should have been able to perceive what they should be done correctly and have the emotional maturity and ability to make the necessary changes.

Why Perception Vary

Why Perception Vary

Our perceptions vary from person to person, and the meaning we take from those perceptions varies. This is why people have different tastes in music, art, architecture, clothes, etc.

Different people perceive different things about the same situation. But more than that, we assign different meanings to what we perceive.

And the meanings might change for a certain person. One might change one’s perspective or simply make things mean something else. Two people with identically tested seeing and hearing will still have different tastes in what they like to see and hear.

The way we perceive the world around us varies and is as unique as our individual personalities. Even though we might look at the same picture, what we interpret will vary depending on a number of factors, including what we expect to see.

Basically, perception is a very interesting facet of life and business. How we perceive our world and how we think our world perceives us can dictate how we act and how we respond in certain situations.

Thus, perception, or apprehending by means of the senses or the mind, can be a very powerful and influential aspect of our lives. It can direct our actions and our thoughts, which in many ways guide who we are.

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