Perception refers to how humans see, experience the world, and form meanings about information and events they come across. We all interpret the world us differently and depending on our experiences, we can create meaning from what our senses pick up. Perception, therefore, can be seen as the processes that help us make sense of all the stimuli we experience at each second. The 5 stages of perception are stimulation, organization, interpretation-evaluation, memory, and recall.
Stimulation, also known as selection, is the first step in the process, which begins when an individual decides to focus on a single occurrence in their environment. In our world, many things happen at once and human beings can focus on just one event at a time, hence selection. When we decide to focus our attention on the new or familiar stimulus, we take it in using our senses such as feeling, smell, or sound. For example, if you see a tree filled with ripe fruit, the pleasant sight of the juicy fruit and the delicious smell and delight will be triggered in our sensory receptors. Thus, receiving and attending to stimuli initiates the process of perception, making it the most critical stage.
Organization follows stimulation since, after our senses collect stimulus information, we begin the attempts to make sense of them. While stimulation is conscious or unconscious, the sensory information collected is sent to the brain where mental representations are formed. Depending on the novelty of the sensory data, whether it’s new or familiar, our brains interpret the data depending on what we already know in an attempt to understand it. By linking and organizing the information, we can understand what is happening around us.
Interpretation is the third stage of perception, where we attend to the stimulus that our brains have collected and organized in ways that make sense to us. Interpretation, therefore, is our way for categorizing what we have gathered in ways that make it easier to comprehend. A significant point to note is that personal factors determine interpretations and, ultimately, how data is perceived relies on prior experiences. Some of the factors that influence interpretation include:
· Experiences: an individual’s past experiences determine how they interpret certain stimuli, which means it varies from one person to the next. For example, a victim of domestic violence might flinch when someone raises their hand but a sports fan might consider it a high-five.
· Values and culture: stimuli can also be interpreted depending on where an individual was raised.
· Expectation and desire.
After stimuli information is stored in one’s brain, it is added to other knowledge that makes up the memory. Throughout our lives, we collect information, form beliefs, and interpret experiences, classifying them into good or bad memories. Our brains are complex and often, we might not remember what we already know until other stimuli remind us of the occurrence. Also, depending on how the stimuli made us feel; happy or scared, our brains will retain this data and when recalled, will determine how it affects us. For example, if your mom baked amazing home-made cookies, when you hear the smell at another house, your brain will “take you back” to the pleasant feelings of childhood and love. New stimuli, thus, is compared to existent memory for better perception.
Once information is stored in our brains, we can always retrieve it for evaluation when faced with similar circumstances. Recalling, essentially, helps us remember events more clearly but with time, depending on later experiences and new knowledge, our memory can change. Some information, which is considered useless or obsolete by the brain, might be abandoned or forgotten.
As discussed, perception is a process that occurs with or without conscious awareness as our bodies have diverse ways of understanding the world around us. Even when 2 people experience the same event, they can assign different meanings to the information, revealing that perception is subjective.
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