What is perception According to the English Oxford Living Dictionary the word perception means The ability to see hear or become aware of something through the senses In psychology perception is the organization identification and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the presented information or the environment Some might think that individuals do not have much control over their perception and that the environment determines what individuals perceive and attend to Accordingly it is commonly thought that perception is bottom up Nevertheless it has been proved that this is not the only way that perception is processed Although the environment does influence human perception relevant stimuli usually capture attention more powerfully Hence perception is also top down Psychologists are often divided on whether perceptions are constructed through bottom up or top down processing with many stating that both occur simultaneously and even that it would not be possible for one to exist without the other Accordingly one could simply say that these two coexist However the purpose of this essay is to discuss which one is prevalent This controversy was specially discussed by the American psychologist James Jerome Gibson 1966 who proposed the bottom up theory for perception and the British psychologist Richard Langton Gregory 1970 who proposed the top down theory Gregory and the Top Down Processing
Theory According to Gregory perception is a hypothesis based on prior knowledge This suggests that individuals actively construct their perception of reality based on their past experiences In 1970 he stated that since about 90 of the information that is perceived through the eyes doesn t reach the brain it is the brain that has to guess what a person sees This process involves a variety of different hypothesis to try to understand what has been presented to the sense organs Therefore perceptions are hypothesis based on prior knowledge and on memories and past experiences Perception can be ambiguous Humans perception of imagery is naturally flawed Information provided via the senses is very restricted and consequently incomplete Therefore the stimuli information from the environment is frequently ambiguous To give it a comprehensible interpretation it is necessary to rely on stored knowledge and previously acquired information Through the explicit and implicit life long learning about the world individuals can be able to make inferences about what they perceive and build unambiguous percepts that allow them to successfully act in the environment However it must be emphasized that perceptions can be deceived e g by fake distorted memories or by emotions ultimately resulting in a wrong interpretation of the environment Most of the times mental imagery is very different from our perception of the real world Mental images are still because they are generated only by our brain without inputs from the outside world
There are two main Gestalt laws of organization The first one superadditivity states that the whole of anything is greater than its parts This means that the characteristics of the whole cannot be deducted from the parts characteristics in isolation The second one closely related to superadditivity is the law of transposition which states that the whole percept will be retained even if the different parts are modified This can be explained with the idea that perceptions are formed using past knowledge Conclusion Humans normally use both bottom up and top down processing in combination and the contributions of one or the other vary in length depending on the situation Once individuals obtain the necessary information through bottom up processing top down processes are then likely to activate and help speed up the pattern recognition process using previous knowledge However it is important to take in consideration that most of the times to interpret the stimuli from our environment bottom up processing can be insufficient while top down processing can lead to wrong interpretations of reality
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