Paper on Perception - Discussing the Four Principles of Perception and How the Brain Can Interpret the Information

Paper on Perception - Discussing the Four Principles of Perception and How the Brain Can Interpret the Information

Perception is the way of interpreting sensory information by brain, and then gives an understanding about the object/ person we see. This essay will mainly focus on perception of sensory information from our eyes.

Basically, there are four principles of perception to explain how brain can interpret the information. They are: (1) Relativity of perception, (2) Selectivity of perception, (3) Perceptual organization and (4) Perceptual constancy. These four principles help to judge and value the object we see. Moreover, these four principles can be elaborated to judge and understand a person based on his/her appearance. Examples will be given based on each of four principles below.

Relativity of perception
Our brain will automatically understand an object by comparing with others at the surrounding environment. The famous example is Ebbinghaus illusion (, 2008). A particular object with definite size, when place with different environments, our judgment will be different. Cristiano Ronaldo is a famous football player with 186.5 cm tall (Real Madrid FC, 2012). When he is standing beside a man with only 165 cm tall, he is seemed as so gigantic and tall. In contrast, if he plays basketball with Yao Ming, Ronaldo will look like weak and inferior because Yao Ming is much taller than him.

Relativity of perception is a fast and convenient method to understand a person by first view. However, it is quite often make a wrong judgment because surrounding environment may affect the perception. To avoid misjudgment, it is better to make a conclusion with objective measurements. If you say Cristiano Ronaldo is tall, you should use a ruler to measure how tall is he.

Selectivity of perception
Sometimes it is hard to understand an object by looking it thoroughly. Instead, we select the part we want to see of the object and then make a judgment. (Rich Hamilton, 2012) For example, when we make new friends, we always understand him/her by looking at the clothing he/she wear or what kinds of shoes he/she is worn. This judgment is based on in which perspective we look at the person. Therefore, sometimes we may make a wrong conclusion because we just only know the part of reality. Some advertisements use this perception principle to attract customers to buy their products. For example, in toothpaste advertisements there is always a person dressing like a dentist to give some positive comments about the product so as to persuade customers. Majority of audiences trust the person is a dentist by just looking at the clothing he wore without verifying his real identity.

Perceptual organization
Perceptual organization is rather complicated. Its main idea is to reorganize the information we received in a meaningful manner. Gestalt psychologists summarize perceptual organization by six laws. (Scott Owen, 1999) Perceptual organization is very useful to recognize a person without restriction by the objects orientation. For example, law of proximity and law of similarity can help us to recognize the identity of person although we just see his/her back. Law of closure (continuity) can help us to recognize our friends although his/her part of faces is covers or he/she is wearing a hat.

This special property of perceptual organization can help us to save our memory to remember a person. In computer, it costs a lot of storage space to store a memory of a detailed 3D object because they do not have well-developed software about perceptual organization. Nowadays, a technology called “Content-Aware Fill” in software Adobe Photoshop CS5 is imitating the law of continuity in our brain to fill up the gaps in image. (Adobe, 2012) However, Content-Aware Fill is time-consuming especially when it deals with a high resolution images. Sometimes perceptual organization may give wrong interpretation when two people have very similar outlook. It is quite often for us to recognize a wrong person in a street because the person’s hair style or his clothing is similar as your friend.

Perceptual constancy
Perceptual constancy says that our idea or perception about a person is kept rather stable in our mind. It is useful for us to recognize a person very quickly once you had seen him/her before because we had created memory for his/her outlook since the first meeting. Perceptual constancy somehow may not be ineffective if person’s appearance undergoes a significant change. Without any abrupt changes, we may interpret the object as it assumed to be. For example, a girl changes her old ear ring into a new and sharp ear ring. She asked her boyfriend about what’s new on her. From the boy’s view, it is a very challenging question because under perceptual constancy the boy already created existing idea about the girl. He cannot notice the change of ear ring the girl wears because this change is so small. These “assumed to be” perceptions always make unfair judgment of a person because he/she can improve himself/herself physically or in the aspect of education level. For example, a person steals some ice-creams in 7-11. He is finally caught by police and sent to jail. After he released from the jail, he cannot get a job because majority of employers think he is still dishonest although this person had promise that he will not steal things anymore. This biased judgment is because of perceptual constancy. The employer will hire him only if this person does something really good and can show his honesty which changes the employer’s mind on him.

Perception is a strategy for living thing to interpret and understand the received sensory information quickly. In our society, the principles of perception can help us to enhance our understanding of a person whether we have seen him/her before. This is essential in our modern society because human needs to communicate with each other effectively. However, perception is rather subjective. Sometimes we may be misled or fooled by our eyes. So, we must be careful before making any decisions.

Author unknown (2008) – Ebbinghaus Illusion by URL:

Author unknown (2012) – Player profile, Cristiano Ronaldo by Real Madrid Football Club (Real Madrid FC)URL:

Rich Hamilton (2012) - Selective Perception in Stock Investing by URL:

G. Scott Owen (1999) – Perceptual organization URL:

Author Unknown (2012) - Adobe Photoshop CS5 / Features by Adobe Systems Incorporated URL: