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For the journal of the same name, see Perception (journal)

In psychology and the cognitive sciences, perception is the process of acquiring, interpreting, selecting, and organizing sensory information. The word perception comes from the Latin perception-, percepio, , meaning "receiving, collecting, action of taking possession, apprehension with the mind or senses." --OED.com. Methods of studying perception range from essentially biological or physiological approaches, through psychological approaches through the philosophy of mind and in empiricist epistemology, such as that of David Hume, John Locke, George Berkeley, or as in Merleau Ponty's affirmation of perception as the basis of all science and knowledge.

History of the study of perception

Perception is one of the oldest fields within scientific psychology, and there are correspondingly many theories about its underlying processes. The oldest quantitative law in psychology is the Weber-Fechner law, which quantifies the relationship between the intensity of physical stimuli and their perceptual effects. It was the study of perception that gave rise to the Gestalt school of psychology, with its emphasis on holistic approach. note: source not good to use on papers

Main article: Historical and philosophical approaches to perception

Perception and reality

Multistability

Ambiguous images

Many cognitive psychologists hold that, as we move about in the world, we create a model of how the world works. That is, we sense the objective world, but our sensations map to percepts, and these percepts are provisional, in the same sense that scientific hypotheses are provisional (cf. in the scientific method).

As we acquire new information, our percepts shift. Abraham Pais' biography refers to the 'esemplastic' nature of imagination. In the case of visual perception, some people can actually see the percept shift in their mind's eye. Others who are not picture thinkers, may not necessarily perceive the 'shape-shifting' as their world changes. The 'esemplastic' nature has been shown by experiment: an ambiguous image has multiple interpretations on the perceptual level.

Just as one object can give rise to multiple percepts, so an object may fail to give rise to any percept at all: if the percept has no grounding in a person's experience, the person may literally not perceive it.

This confusing ambiguity of perception is exploited in human technologies such as camouflage, and also in biological mimicry, for example by Peacock butterflies, whose wings bear eye markings that birds respond to as though they were the eyes of a dangerous predator. Perceptual ambiguity is not restricted to vision. For example, recent touch perception research (Robles-De-La-Torre & Hayward 2001) found that kinesthesia-based haptic perception strongly relies on the forces experienced during touch. This makes it possible to produce illusory touch percepts (see also the MIT Technology Review article The Cutting Edge of Haptics).

Cognitive theories of perception assume there is a poverty of stimulus. This (with reference to perception) is the claim that sensations are, by themselves, unable to provide a unique description of the world. Sensations require 'enriching', which is the role of the mental model. A different type of theory is the perceptual ecology approach of James J. Gibson. Gibson rejected the assumption of a poverty of stimulus by rejecting the notion that perception is based in sensations. Instead, he investigated what information is actually presented to the perceptual systems. He (and the psychologists who work within this paradigm) detailed how the world could be specified to a mobile, exploring organism via the lawful projection of information about the world into energy arrays. Specification is a 1:1 mapping of some aspect of the world into a perceptual array; given such a mapping, no enrichment is required and perception is direct.

Perception as a Unit of Consciousness

In Objectivist philosophy, sensations are not retained in memory but the object of perception is. Perceptions, not sensations, are self-evident "givens." Epistemology in philosophy is to verify the nature of the perception. To do this, one is first aware of an entity. The verification process makes an identiy of it by making measurements, i.e., automatic comparisons. Example: you sense something (entity) that has four legs and a large flat surface (epistemological measurements). Then you compare it to other things of similar appearance and decide it is a table. Cognition(perception) and measurement (four legs;large flat top) are the primary elements of consciousness. The mental integration of two or more percepts create a concept[How to reference and link to summary or text].

Perception-in-Action

The ecological understanding of perception advanced from Gibson's early work is perception-in-action, the notion that perception is a requisite property of animate action, without perception action would not be guided and without action perception would be pointless. Animate actions require perceiving and moving together. In a sense, "perception and movement are two sides of the same coin, the coin is action." (D.N. Lee) A mathematical theory of perception-in-action has been devised and investigated in many forms of controlled movement by many different species of organism, General Tau Theory. According to this theory, tau information, or time-to-goal information is the fundamental 'percept' in perception.

Perception and action

We gather information about the world and interact with it through our actions. Perceptual information is critical for action. Perceptual deficits may lead to profound deficits in action (for touch-perception-related deficits, see Robles-De-La-Torre 2006).

Types of sensory perception

Other types of perception

See also

References & Bibliography

Key texts

Books

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Additional material

Books

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External links

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