What is Perception in Psychology? - Definition & Theory

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  • 0:01 Introduction
  • 0:30 Perception Defined
  • 1:59 The Difference Between…
  • 3:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Perception is the process of recognizing and interpreting sensory stimuli. Learn the definition of perception, how it is related to the five senses, how it differs from reality, and more.

Interpreting Sensory Information

Think of all the ways in which you experience the world around you. For example, you recognize your favorite food by its aroma and the way it looks. You recognize an orange by its round shape, citrus flavor, and its color. You recognize a song by listening to its melody and the singer's voice. It is through these sensory experiences that we interact with and interpret things in our world. Recognizing and interpreting sensory information, such as sound and smells, are all a part of perception.

Perception Defined

Perception can be defined as our recognition and interpretation of sensory information. Perception also includes how we respond to the information. We can think of perception as a process where we take in sensory information from our environment and use that information in order to interact with our environment. Perception allows us to take the sensory information in and make it into something meaningful.

For example, let's look at our perception of words. Each letter of the alphabet is in itself a singular letter. When we perceive words, we think of them as one singular unit that is made up of smaller parts called letters. It is through this organization of letters into words that we are able to make something meaningful. That is, we perceive an entire word, and this word has a specific meaning that can be found in the dictionary.

Perception is also necessary for us to survive in our environment. For example, before parents feed their babies microwaved food, they taste it in order to make sure that the temperature isn't too hot. This involves using sensory information (touch and taste) to make sure that the food is not dangerous for the infant. Before we cross a busy street, we rely on our hearing and sight to make sure a car is not coming. Without the sensory information, we would not be able to judge which food was too hot or when an appropriate time to cross the street would be, which could put us and our children in danger.

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