What are the Stages of Perception?

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  • 0:01 Stages of Perception
  • 0:18 Stimulation & Organization
  • 1:50 Interpretation,…
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dana Dance-Schissel

Dana teaches social sciences at the college level and English and psychology at the high school level. She has master's degrees in applied, clinical and community psychology.

Perception refers to the way individuals experience or give meaning to information and events, and perception differs from person to person. This lesson will discuss the five stages of perception and will end with a quiz to test your knowledge.

The Stages of Perception

What do you see in the photograph below? How would you describe what you see to another person? What does the image mean to you?

This photograph will be perceived very differently by different people
US soldiers

When we look at something we use perception, or personal understanding. There are five states of perception which are: stimulation, organization, interpretation, memory, and recall.

Stimulation and Organization


The process of perception begins with the stimulation of the senses. When looking at a picture, we're using our eyes which use photoreceptors to take in the information. Photoreceptors are a special kind of sensory receptor that processes light for vision. However, sight is only one of five kinds of perception. Perception occurs in all the five senses including sight, taste, hearing, smell, and touch. Sensory receptors send information to the brain for processing. In the case of this photograph, the photoreceptors detect light and send it to the brain for processing. Therefore, the first stage of perception begins with the senses. We must first sense stimuli before we can perceive. So when you see a picture, smell an apple pie cooking, hear a train whistle, taste a slice of pizza, or touch a hot stove, you are perceiving all of those things with your sensory receptors.

What if you didn't look at the above image at all? If that were the case, you would not be able to describe what the image is or how you feel about it. If we do not attend to stimuli, then we cannot perceive stimuli; thus attention is a critical factor in the process of perception. Receiving and attending to stimuli is the first stage in perception.


Once we collect stimulus information from the senses, we have to try to make sense of it. This is called organization. The information is sent to the brain, where it is compared against previous knowledge. This helps us organize the information by fitting it with similar information. This linking or organizing of information helps us understand what is happening. Organization is the second stage of perception.

Interpretation, Memory, and Recall


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