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The process of selecting, organizing, and
interpreting sensory information, which enables us
to recognize meaningful objects and events.
Selective Attention
Perceptions about objects change from moment to moment.
We can only focus on limited aspects of sensory input at
any given time
e.g. : “Cocktail Party Effect”
Perceptual Illusions
Illusions provide good examples in
understanding how perception is organized.
Studying faulty perception is as important as
studying other perceptual phenomena.
Line AB is longer than line BC.
Tall Arch
Rick Friedman/ Black Star
In this picture, the
vertical dimension
of the arch looks
longer than the
However, both are
Perceptual Organization
How do we form meaningful perceptions
from sensory information?
We organize it. Gestalt psychologists
showed that a figure formed a “whole”
different than its surroundings.
called a “gestalt”
Form Perception
Organization of the visual field into objects
(figures) that stand out from their surroundings
Time Savings Suggestion, © 2003 Roger Sheperd.
After distinguishing the figure from the ground,
our perception needs to organize the figure into
a meaningful form using grouping rules.
Perception in Brain
Our perceptions are a combination of
sensory (bottom-up) and cognitive (topdown) processes.
Perceptual Interpretation
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) maintained that
knowledge comes from our inborn ways of
organizing sensory experiences.
John Locke (1632-1704) argued that we learn to
perceive the world through our experiences.
How important is experience in shaping our
perceptual interpretation?
Sensory Deprivation
Kittens raised
without exposure to
horizontal lines later
had difficulty
perceiving horizontal
Blakemore & Cooper (1970)
Perceptual Set
Other examples of perceptual set.
Dick Ruhl
Frank Searle, photo Adams/ Corbis-Sygma
(a) Loch ness monster or a tree trunk;
(b) Flying saucers or clouds?
Cultural Context
Context instilled by culture also alters
To an East African, the woman sitting is balancing a metal
box on her head, while the family is sitting under a tree.
Perception Revisited
Is perception innate or acquired?
Human Factors & Misperceptions
Understanding human factors enables us to
design equipment to prevent disasters.
Two-thirds of airline crashes caused by human error are
largely due to errors of perception.