Since ancient times, human behavior has been studied in order to answer hundreds of questions about the nature of man, the development of personality and the independent way we observe the world is a fascinating sample of the versatility of human beings.
Every person has a particular and unique way of receiving the stimuli that surround them and, of course, of interpreting them. There are many factors that influence this and that will be decisive in the formation of the personality and how it will develop in the different scenarios of life.
The idea that we have of the world and the facts that converge in it are the result of the complementation of external and internal factors that have a subjective effect on our psyche, the five senses, attention or memory are just some of these factors that manage to determine the way in which we assimilate information.
All this leads us to a single concept: perception, which superficially we could define as that quality of receiving and processing sensory stimuli to build a personal and individual representation of each fact or situation.
In this article, we will explain more thoroughly all the processes that converge with perception and thus achieve a more accurate understanding of its different conceptions.
What is Perception?
Throughout history, there are diverse conceptions and opinions that revolve around the concept of perception, some define it simplistically as a process that coordinates the stimulation of information, assuming that each person can only receive the information that he or she can process and on which his or her survival depends.
Others, for example, consider that perception is a complex active-constructive process where the receiver is capable of making an anticipated representation of the stimuli, contrasting this with the experiences stored in the memory.
However, perception is something much more extensive and complex, whose implications include the constant flow of stimuli that reach our senses, and in learning mode allows us to generate a conceptualization of our environment, how we develop and our moods.
In summary, perception can be considered as the mental reflex based on experience, living and sensations, being subjective by its variation from person to person, temporary by the short time in which an interpretation of a fact can be generated and selective, because each one will choose in an unconscious way the stimulus that wishes to perceive.
How do external stimuli influence people?
Our perception and interpretation of the external world comprises a process that involves our external and internal sensory organs, as well as our psyche, which is in charge of giving a reading that will allow us to individually assimilate the information.
All stimuli generate a sensation in our senses, and this can come in various forms, visual, auditory, olfactory, among others and from these begin the internal process of perception based on our memories.
A sensation will become a perception, as long as it means something to the individual, and from there arises the thought, the contrast with reality and the learning that may or may not allow an action on it.
In this sense, three aspects converge, the stimulus, a sensory organ and a sensory relationship.
Our memory is composed of memories, and from the affinity with them, all external stimuli will generate a response in our brain, managing to perceive them so that we can generate a response based on our convictions.
Emotions and emotional memories also influence this process, where memory, attention and senses form a gear that allows us to assume a particular fact in a certain way.
Memory and Perception: How do they relate?
In human learning, memory plays a primordial role, its capacity to store information that can be received, interpreted and recovered according to the context in which it is needed, allowing individuals to benefit from their past experiences in present or future contexts.
In the perceptive process we must take information or stimulus, internalize it and give it meaning based on our knowledge and experiences, but how can we do that without the capacity to store memories? That is where the importance of memory in perception comes in.
It is useless to observe and receive a stimulus, if we do not remember or have something to contrast it with or relate it to, memory plays a decisive role in the way we interpret a fact, it is the only point of connection with our past or experiences and according to these we will manage to determine our actions.
Something to consider is that memory often depends on attention, and is that a fact or stimulus received can be remembered to a greater or lesser extent depending on the attention it has been given at that moment. For this reason, it is important to know the aspects of attention as a complement to memory.
The Five Senses and their influence on perception
Stimuli are constantly received through the senses, these are: sight, smell, taste, hearing and touch, these will determine the level of perception and interpretation that we are able to receive and decode them to acquire specific information.
The processes that involve the senses vary in each person, they influence physiological and cognitive elements, which according to the functioning of each of the sensory organs that make up our body, we will manage to perceive external stimuli.
For example, through sight we can perceive certain information regarding colors, such as knowing how to differentiate one color from another. Likewise, through smell we can identify an aroma and relate it to a stage of our past, being an illustration of how the different cognitive processes converge.
The perceptive process through the senses begins with a captured stimulus that systematically triggers a series of events in our brain, which are influenced by other processes such as memory, attention, our experiences, culture and the context where the events take place.
The Relationship between Perception and Attention
Attention, like memory and the senses, is a fundamental part of perception. This cognitive process, consciously or unconsciously, manages to inhibit all external or internal aspects that could divert the reception of a stimulus through the senses.
In the perceptive field, attention is considered the filter between external stimuli and our memory, because according to the attention we give to the information, it will be stored in our brain, and therefore, it will have a better processing and deeper interpretation in the future.
The attention should be focused on generating a sensation in our mind, at the moment of keeping the attention fixed on an object; our brain would receive a greater approximation based on our memories, which will allow us to immediately execute a representation of that stimulus.
In this sense, it is conformed by two groups of factors, one that determines the structure of the stimuli, like its orientation, characteristics and intensity, while the second is the one that relates the novelty or identifies the differences in relation to other stimuli.
When a stimulus is different from the stored memories, more attention will be paid, which will consolidate the perceptive process at that moment.
The attention, the memory and the senses are fundamental cognitive processes in the conscious activity of the man, which manage to determine the perceptive level of each one and how he will manage to represent the facts in his daily life.