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What Is Perception And How Does It Occur?

What is the definition of perception? Think of it as the process of becoming aware of the world around you through your senses.

Your senses play a critical role in perception and behavior. They not only allow you to perceive your environment, they also enable you to act in response to it.

Sensation and perception psychology is one of the oldest fields of study in social psychology. Below I’m going to take you through the process we go through to become aware of anything in our environments.

The Definition Of Perception: The Sensing Process 

Perception happens in one of five ways:

  • You see something with your eyes
  • Smell something with your nose
  • Hear something with your ears
  • Feel something with your skin
  • Taste something on your tongue

Because there is an overabundance of stimulation hitting your senses in every moment, most sensations will be filtered out. This is why only a  fraction of your surrounding environment will ever reach your conscious  awareness.

What Is Perception: Integration

What is filtered in versus filtered out depends on where you put your attention. Whatever stimulus you focus on becomes the “attended stimuli.”

Initially the attended stimuli are turned into images on the retina and then they are transformed into electrical signals that are sent through the brain.

The Definition Of Perception: Analysis

At this stage, you become consciously aware of the environmental stimuli and you begin to analyze and interpret the perceived objects in order to give them meaning and context.

How you analyze what you perceive will be greatly influenced by many  factors including your past experiences, feelings, imagination, values, memories, beliefs and your cultural setting.

Because the content and degree of these influences will be different for  everyone, the same object or event can be perceived very differently by  different people. This is why perception is not reality.

The Definition Of Perception: Reaction

Perception leads to decision making and action taking. At the most basic level, the decision is to act or not to act and this depends on how you develop motivation. With every action there is always a set of alternatives from which to choose, even though oftentimes it might seem as if there are no alternatives.

The meaning you give to a stimulus you perceive will fundamentally shape the choices and actions you take in response to it.

For example, if you walk outside and your skin receptors tell you it’s cold, your decision will likely be to run inside and grab a sweater. The next person could decide the cold crisp air is rejuvenating and they’ll choose to go without a sweater.

Perception And Behavior: Decision Making

How you make decisions is based on the human instinct of self preservation. We’re all, always trying to maximize our chances of survival and preserve ourselves. This is a common motivation among all human beings.

While we all share the same motivation, that’s where the similarity ends. We’re we differ greatly (and where we each express our individuality) is in the choices we make and the actions we take to achieve self preservation. 


I subscribe to the age-old philosophy that first you have to BE before you can DO and HAVE what you want. I created this site to give readers practical and motivational success tips! In every post you will find simple success principles that will cause you to succeed.

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