Perception is the word used to describe the process by which we get information from our sense organs. Our brains convert that information into what we see, hear, touch, smell and feel.
Notice that there is a clear distinction between sensation, which is a matter of acquiring raw data about the world, and perception, which is much more complex. We are wrong to think that our eyes work like a television camera, simply providing the brain with a complete picture of the world. There is plenty of evidence to show that the process is considerably more complicated.
For example, the eyes see the world upside down with the left eye providing information to the right-hand side of the brain and the right eye to the left side of the brain. But we do not see an upside-down, mirror image of reality. The brain has corrected the image presented to it by the eyes so that we see the world the correct way around.
Perception is far from being a passive process. Three principles are relevant in understanding this:
The sense organs are deluged with information but we are not aware of most of this data. The senses are windows, sensitive only to a small range of stimuli but we do not perceive much of the information the sense organs receive within these windows of sensitivity. For example, example, we are not aware of our clothes touching our bodies unless we actively think about them. Equally, we are not aware of the sound of our own breathing.
We pay attention only to fraction of the information available to us. But perception goes beyond this filtering in that we add to the information supplied by the senses.
The process of perception involves the organization of data.
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