Perception refers to the process by which sensory information is organized and interpreted actively by organisms’ brains so as to produce a meaningful experience of the world around them. Perception refers to the eventual experience of the world; it involves processing of sensory input. Perception is closely related to sensation and they two term are practically not possible to separate; they are usually part of one continuous process. Sensation refers to the process by which we experience our environment through taste, touch, sight, smell and sound. Information by these sensory organs is sent to the brain and this is where perception comes into play. The way human beings perceive their environment is what differentiates them from other animals and from each other.According to the Gestalt principles of perceptual organization, the whole is greater than the summation of its components (Lindsay & Norman, 1977).
This principle of grouping is made up of various components; closure, continuity, proximity, figure ground and similarity. Figure-ground refers to the fact that organization is dependent on the context or what we perceive a ground and objects or what we see as figure. Closure refers to the way human beings perceive figures with gaps in them to be complete. Continuity refers to the way humans have a tendency of perceiving objects and figures as belonging together if they appear in a pattern that is continuous. Similarity refers to the objects than have like characteristics and perceived as one unit. Proximity refers to objects that are close together in time or space and thus perceived as belonging together.Perception makes human beings to tend to perceive objects as having properties that are stable in spite of difference in lighting, distance and angle of view (Hochberg, 1978). This is referred to as perceptual constancy. It also makes humans perceive objects as being about the same size as they move far away, a concept that is known as size constancy. Perception also makes human to perceive objects as having a shape that is stable and unchanging in spite of the variations in the retinal image which results from viewing the angle differently. This is known as shape constancy. For instance a door is still a door, no matter what angle it is viewed from, whether shut or opened.The way human beings perceive motion is based on essential and repeatedly changing assumptions about stability.They search for some stimulus in the environment which serves as the imagined reference point for stability. When one is driving, one can sense that the car is in motion while the outside environment is not. Perception makes human see impossible figures which do not appear unusual at first. People also see illusions which are false perceptions of real stimuli involving a misperception of shape, size and the relationship of one element to another.
There are many interesting theories that have come up to explain perception. For instance Melzack & Walls (1985) came up with a theory known as Gate Control Theory which states that any pain that is incoming usually pass through a gate which is situated in the spinal cord and establishes what information will be sent to the brain (Goldstein, 1989). The gate determines the pain that will go through and whether it will be prevented from being perceived by the brain. According to Melzack & walls the functioning of the gate in influenced by expectations, personality and moods.
Perception plays a very major role in the way we perceive things and how we perform our daily activities. For instance instructors in drivers’ education advise that before they drive across an intersection, they look in both directions. This is the role of perception since failure to do this might cause an accident. In order to understand others, one should have a very good perception. People often conflict because they fail to perceive others correctly.