A Brief Look at the Psychology of Perception

Well, viewing Anchorman 2: The legend continues…(Tiny spoiler alert, not going to give too much away) for those who haven’t seen the movie, it’s about a news anchor team. Ron Burgundy’s character, played by the hilariously talented Will Ferrell, ends up losing his eyesight 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. It is 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, and you become more aware of using 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 develop extraordinary abilities eventually. With our extreme cognitive technology advancements, we now understand how one perceives the world around them without eyesight, with more clarity than ever. Their dictionary alone they helped developed is hundreds of more words than 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 to represent and understand the environment.  All perception involves signals in the nervous system, resulting from physical stimulation of the sense organs. For example, vision involves light striking the eyes’ retinas, and odour molecules mediate the smell, 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 the nervous system’s complex functions but subjectively seems mostly effortless because this processing happens outside conscious awareness.

The most interesting thing about our perception is how 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, our unconscious mind perceives and processes event’s beyond 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 learnings are transferred to the unconscious mind. When a person is asleep, it is the brain’s time to process the day’s information. The act of dreaming is simply thinking about our usual concerns in a different state of consciousness. Dreams can be beneficial for problems that require creativity or visualization to solve. By thinking about specific dilemmas before bed, we can increase our chances of dreaming of 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, and one can control these dreams through lucid dreaming. We will do an entire blog dedicated just to lucid dreaming later.


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 physical stimuli’ intensity 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, emphasizing a holistic approach.

Since the rise of experimental psychology in the late 19th Century, psychology’s understanding of perception has progressed by combining various techniques. Psycho-physics measures the effect on the 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 colours exist in objective reality rather than the interpreter’s mind. An interesting fact about colours is they are an illusion our brains are made up. Although we all see the same colours, the shades vary from person to person. For example, the human eye can detect approximately 600 shades of brown alone.

One of my favourite psychologists I recently read about is James Gibson, born in the early 20th century, who 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 brain’s perceptual systems 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 differently, 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 odour.

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.

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, and I was 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 is totally different and will never and can’t be duplicated. We’re really not that different from one another as much as some want to believe. It’s 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 am not here to build a business; I am not here to build a corporation; I am not here to build Schools; I am not here to build churches—I am no Mother Theresa.

What I will do is—lead a legacy.”

– Dean Mathers




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