What is Perception?

What is Perception?

Well viewing Anchorman 2: The legend continues…(Tiny spoiler alert, not going to give to much away). For those who haven’t seen the movie, its about a news anchor team. Ron Burgundy’s character played by the hilariously talented Will Ferrell, ends up loosing his eye sight for part of the film. Which led me to think…”If I were to lose my vision today how different would I perceive the world around me.” Even losing any other sense for that matter, especially hearing and vision. Its an urban legend that when one sense is lost the others are heightened instantly. The truth is they don’t become heightened at that instant, you become more aware of the use of the other senses. Our brains are wired to memorize and learn sensations based on how they stand out from the background, for example, a blind person will be more focused on audio cues than visual ones. Compensatory senses aren’t present right from the time one is born. Rather, they arise from years of getting around with a missing or decreased sense. In other words, the brain’s plasticity allows those with apparent disabilities to eventually develop extraordinary abilities. With our extreme advancements of cognitive technology, we are now understanding how one perceives the world around them without eyesight, with more clarity then ever. Their dictionary alone they helped developed is hundreds of more words then our regular one, due to the way they see things in their mind. The wording is in a way more descriptive detail than just single words alone.

Perception is defined as the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment.  All perception involves signals in the nervous system, which in turn result from physical stimulation of the sense organs. For example, vision involves light striking the retinas of the eyes, smell is mediated by odor molecules and hearing involves pressure waves. Perception involves these from the 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 (for example; 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.

I think the most interesting thing about our perception is the way our conscious and unconscious mind perceives the world around us day-to-day. Our conscious mind brings five percent of the total information we perceive, well the other ninety five percent is through our unconscious mind. Our conscious mind is the information we pick up well awake of the things we are vividly aware of through all senses at any given time. Well are unconscious mind perceives and processes event’s beyond the conscious perception. The conscious mind is not aware of the unconscious mind. It’s impossible to remember everything we have learned consciously. Most of our learning’s are transferred to the unconscious mind. When a person is asleep, its the brains time to process the days information. The act of dreaming is simply thinking about our usual concerns in a different state of consciousness. Dreams can be especially helpful for problems that require creativity or visualization to solve. By thinking about specific dilemmas before bed, we can increase our chances that we will dream a solution. Dreams occur in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, during which the brain is just as active as when we are awake. People average 3-5 dreams per night, one can control these dreams through what is called lucid dreaming. We will do an entire blog dedicated just to lucid dreaming later.

Here is a brief summary of how we utilize each one of our senses to perceive the world around us:

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In the case of visual perception, some people can actually see the precept shift in their mind’s eye. Others, who are not picture thinkers, may not necessarily perceive the ‘shape-shifting’ as their world changes. People who have variates of autism see in pictures. An autistic person with aspergers syndrome explained to me once, the way they view their life is like if a person were to video tape you and after lets say one second of video, you would have 50 picture frames per second (fps). If you were to lay those pictures out and look at them frame to frame, one could see in more detail your surroundings with extraordinary clarity. That’s why in some cases of autism, some people can remember down to the exact minute of something they did years back.

The ‘molding into one’ nature has been shown by experiment an ambiguous image has multiple interpretations on the perceptual level. This confusing ambiguity of perception is exploited in human technologies such as camouflage, and also in biological mimicry, for example, by European Peacock butterflies, whose wings bear eye markings that birds respond to as though they were the eyes of a dangerous predator.


Hearing is our ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations. Frequencies capable of being heard by humans are called audio or sonic. The range is typically considered to be between 20 hertz and 20,000 Hz. Frequencies higher than audio are referred to as ultrasonic, while frequencies below audio are referred to as infrasonic. The auditory system includes the ears and inner structures which produce neural signals in response to the sound. The primary auditory cortex, within the temple lobe of the human brain, is where auditory information arrives in the cerebral cortex. (Cerebral cortex is my favorite part of the brain that’s where all my great thoughts and memories are stored, or maybe I just like the words cerebral and cortex used together). Anyway, hearing involves the computationally complex task of separating out the sources of interest, often estimating their distance and direction as well as identifying them.


Speech perception is the process by which the sounds of language are heard, interpreted and understood. Research in speech perception seeks to understand how human listeners recognize speech sounds and use this information to understand spoken language. The sound of a word can vary widely according to words around it and the tempo of the speech, as well as the physical characteristics, accent and mood of the speaker. Listeners manage to perceive words across this wide range of different conditions. Another variation is that reverberation can make a large difference in sound between a word spoken from the far side of a room and the same word spoken up close. Experiments have shown that people automatically compensate for this effect when hearing speech. The process of perceiving speech begins at the level of the sound within the auditory signal and the process of audition. After processing the initial auditory signal, speech sounds are further processed to extract acoustic cues and phonetic information.

As a young child this speech thing was difficult for me to comprehend for some reason. You wouldn’t know it now, but I had a bit of a speech impediment. I spoke with a bit of a lisp, kinda sounded like a really feminine gay person. My grandpa use to tell me try saying what ever word I had difficulty with over again, but this time with my teeth in, HA. Minor impediments like this can be easily reversed with enough practice and time. I remember my parents tried that “hooked on phonics” game, the commercials at the end would be these kids saying, “Hooked on phonics works for me!” That shit did not work for me, I think we tried it once and I was done with that game, its mostly meant to help with reading comprehension….I guess?


Haptic perception is the process of recognizing objects through touch. James J. Gibson defined the haptic system as “The sensibility of the individual to the world adjacent to his body by use of his body.” It involves a combination of somatosensory perception of patterns on the skin surface (e.g., edges, curvature, and texture) and propiocetion of hand position and conformation. People can rapidly and accurately identify three-dimensional objects by touch. This involves exploratory procedures, such as moving the fingers over the outer surface of the object or holding the entire object in the hand. Haptic perception relies on the forces experienced during touch.


Taste (or, the more formal term, gustation) is the ability to perceive the flavor of substances including, but not limited to, food. Humans receive tastes through sensory organs called taste buds, or gustatory calyculi, found on the upper surface of the tongue.  The human tongue has 100 to 150 taste receptor cells on each of its roughly ten thousand taste buds. There are five primary tastes: sweetness, bitterness, sourness, saltiness, and umami. Other tastes can be copied by combining these basic tastes. The recognition and awareness of umami is a relatively recent development in western foods.  The basic tastes contribute only partially to the sensation and flavor of food in the mouth — other factors include smell, detected by the olfactory epithelium of the nose, texture, detected through a variety of mechanoreceptors, muscle nerves, and temperature, detected by thermoreceptors. All basic tastes are classified as either appetitive or aversive, depending upon whether the things they sense are harmful or beneficial.

All Other Senses

Other senses enable perception of body balance, acceleration, gravity, position of body parts, temperature, pain, time, and perception of internal senses such as suffocation, gag reflex, intestinal distension, fullness of rectum and
urinary bladder, and sensations felt in the throat and lungs. In some cases when people loose a limb, they experience what is called phantom limb syndrome. One can experience the sense of itching or pain where that limb once was, or thinking they are moving that specific body part.

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The Psychology Of Perception

Perception is one of the oldest fields in psychology. 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 (for example, testing how much darker a computer screen can get before the viewer actually notices). The study of perception gave rise to the Gestalt school of psychology, with its emphasis on holistic approach.

Since the rise of experimental psychology in the late 19th Century, psychology’s understanding of perception has progressed by combining a variety of techniques. Psycho-physics measures the effect on perception of varying the physical qualities of the input. Sensory neuroscience studies the brain mechanisms underlying perception. Perceptual systems can also be studied computationally, in terms of the information they process. Perceptual issues in philosophy include the extent to which sensory qualities such as sounds, smells or colors exist in objective reality rather than the mind of the interpreter. Interesting fact about colors is they are an illusion our brains made up. Although we all see the same colors, the shades vary from person to person. For example, the human eye can detect approximately 600 shades of brown alone.

One of the my favorite psychologists I recently read up about is James Gibson, born in the early 20th century helped revolutionized psychology as we know it to be today. An ecological understanding of perception derived from Gibson’s early work is that of “perception-in-action”, the notion that perception is a requisite property of animate action; that without perception action would be unguided, and without action perception would serve no purpose. Animate actions require both perception and motion, and perception and movement can be described as “two sides of the same coin, the coin is action”. Gibson works from the assumption that singular entities, which he calls “invariants”, already exist in the real world and that all that the perception process does is to home in upon them.

The perceptual systems of the brain enable individuals to see the world around them as stable, even though the sensory information may be incomplete and rapidly varying. Human and animal brains are structured in a modular way, with different areas processing different kinds of sensory information. Some of these modules take the form of sensory maps, mapping some aspect of the world across part of the brain’s surface. These different modules are interconnected and influence each other. For instance, the taste is strongly influenced by its odor.

Although the senses were traditionally viewed as passive receptors, the study of illusions and ambiguous images has demonstrated that the brain’s perceptual systems actively and per-consciously attempt to make sense of their input. There is still active debate about the extent to which perception is an active process of hypothesis testing, analogous to science, or whether realistic sensory information is rich enough to make this process unnecessary.

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There is strong evidence that the brain in some ways operates on a slight “delay”, to allow nerve impulses from distant parts of the body to be integrated into simultaneous signals. Technically this makes it impossible to live in the present, were always slightly living in the past with this delay….LOL

Human genetics on average are 99.9% the same. Although the way we perceive things from one another are totally different and will never and can’t be duplicated. Were really not that different from one another as much as some want to believe. Its up to us the person how we want to shape our individuality. There are two types of people, leaders and followers. What type of person are you?

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” – Robertson Davies

“Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need others’ approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.” – Lao Tzu

“We are now in the psycho, chemical age. In the future it’s not going to be what book your read but what chemical you take to open and close your consciousness.” – Albert Hofmann

I will leave you with this short video from my favorite YouTube guys:








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