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Can Perception be constructed?

By- Vipul Garg


PERCEPTION is the subsequent selection, organization, and interpretation of sensory input. It is the process of obtaining information about both the external and internal environments, which results in the conscious experience, recognition, and interpretation of objects, and their relationships, and events. For example, vision involves light striking the retinas of the eyes, smell is mediated by odor molecules and hearing involves pressure waves. Perception is not the passive receipt of these signals, but can be shaped by learning, memory and expectation. Perception involves top-down" effects as well as the "bottom-up" process of processing sensory input. The "bottom-up" processing is basically low-level information that's used to build up higher-level information (shapes for object recognition). The "top-down" processing refers to a person's concept and expectations (knowledge) that influence perception. Perception depends on complex functions of the nervous system, but subjectively seems mostly effortless because this processing happens outside conscious awareness. Perception is the intellectual process through which a person selects the data from the environment, organizes it, and obtains meaning from it. Perceptual mechanism involves three elements- selection of stimuli, organization of stimuli, and interpretation of stimuli. Selection of stimuli depends on two factors: external, related to stimuli and internal related to the perceiver. The perceptual inputs that have been organized will have to be interpreted by the perceiver to extract some meaning of what is going on in the situation. People interpret the meaning of what they have selected and organized in term of their own assumption of people, things and situations. They interpret the things as good/bad, beautiful/ugly, and so on. Interpretation of stimuli is affected by situation under which perception take place and characteristics of perceiver. And this is the part where construction takes place like in the case of, when there is an accident in the factory; the supervisor may treat it as the carelessness of worker while the worker may treat it as lack of adequate provision of security measures. Thus the situation remaining the same, causes have been assigned differently by different group of people by constructing different information regarding the event. So, perception is constructive as same thing looks, appear and have different meaning for different people.

Reference
1. Pomerantz, James R. (2003): "Perception: Overview". In: Lynn Nadel (Ed.),Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science, Vol. 3, London: Nature Publishing Group, pp. 527537 2. Defined as "receiving, collecting, action of taking possession, apprehension with the mind or senses." in Oxford English Dictionary: The way in which things are understood; 3. Goldstein (2009) pp. 57

4. Gregory, Richard. "Perception" in Gregory, Zangwill (1987) pp. 598601