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Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception

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Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception

Have you ever wondered whether you see the same world as other people see? Or maybe you have noticed that how you see and experience the world around you changes depending on the context.

Gibson argued that sensory input is sufficient for perceiving reality with no need for making interpretations. However, Gregory had a different theory of how perception works. Gregory proposed that our perception is more of an interpretation of what we see, influenced by our past experiences or even our mood. So let's see what evidence can support Gregory's view of perception.

Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception, a man standing on a rock looking into the distance shading his eyes, StudySmarterGregory's constructivist theory of perception used a top-down approach, freepik.com/storyset

How to describe Gregory's Constructivist Theory Of Perception?

Richard Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception argues that sensory information alone is not enough to account for perception. According to Gregory, perception is an active process involving making inferences and interpretations based on previous knowledge, experience, and context.

Gregory proposed a constructivist approach to perception. Perception doesn't objectively reflect sensory stimuli; perception constructs a model of reality based on both sensations and inferences.

Top-down processing

Gregory's Indirect Theory of perception is an example of a top-down approach. The top-down approach stresses the role of what we already know and expect on perception. What we perceive is not always the objective truth but rather an interpretation.

The role of interpretation in perception explains why people can perceive the same sensory information differently or why we perceive the same thing differently depending on our motivation or emotions.

If you are scared of spiders and see a spider in your room, you are likely to perceive it to be bigger than it is. Your emotion in that context (fear) makes you exaggerate the size of the spider.

If you're angry and your goal is to throw something, and you see an orange, you are likely to perceive it as a potential missile rather than a snack.

Inferences in Gregory's Indirect Theory of Perception

An inference is our best guess of what we see. Making inferences is a crucial aspect of the constructivist theory of perception. We can make inferences to construct a complete model of an object based on incomplete sensory information. Inferences are based on past knowledge. past experiences and visual cues like depth cues or motion cues, and perspective.

We can make an inference to create an image of an object even if only part of the object is visible. If we can only see half of a table behind other objects, we assume that there is another half to it but something is blocking our view, or we can't see it from our perspective, rather than assume that only half of this object exists.

Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception, a book on a table with chairs, StudySmarterWe use incomplete sensory information like seeing half of a desk or chair to construct a complete model of an object, pixabay.com

The hollow mask illusion: when seeing the concave side of a 3D mask of a face, we experience an illusion that it looks convex. One explanation of this illusion is that we are so used to seeing convex faces that our brain infers that the mask is convex rather than concave.

The model of reality in Gregory's Indirect Theory of Perception

The model of reality constructed from perception is biased by our perceptual set, rather than being objective. Perceptual set refers to the tendency to select certain information that is deemed important, focus on it and ignore less "relevant" aspects of what we see.

The perceptual set is influenced by culture, motivation, emotion and expectation. For example, there is evidence that different cultures tend to make different inferences and perceive the same stimuli differently.

Hudson (1960) found cross-cultural differences in interpreting depth cues in pictures.

Researchers showed participants pictures of a hunter attacking an antelope standing close to him, with an elephant standing on a hill far behind the hunter.

Even though the elephant was far, it appeared between the hunter and the antelope.

Results
  • It was found that Bantu workers from South Africa interpreted the picture as a depiction of a hunter attacking the elephant instead of the antelope, suggesting that there is a cultural difference in perceiving depth cues in images.

Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception,Illustration of example Hudson stimulus, depth cues tell us the elephant is not what the man is aiming for StudySmarterIllustration of example Hundson (1960) stimulus, depth cues (size of an elephant and hills) tell us the elephant is not what the man is aiming for, StudySmarter Originals, Alicja Blaszkiewicz

We make inferences about what we see based on our past experiences with similar stimuli and visual cues. An example of a visual cue is linear perspective. In the case of the Müller-Lyer illusion, the appearance of linear perspective and our familiarity with buildings affects how we see the two lines, which are the same length.

Segall et al. (1963) found that cultures that are not used to seeing right angles in the corners of rooms in buildings are less susceptible to the Muller-Lyer illusion. Hunter-gatherers were not "fooled" by the illusion like Europeans and Americans were.

One explanation of the Müller-Lyer illusion proposed by Gregory is that people who are used to seeing corners of buildings see the smaller lines as linear perspective cues.

The first line, which looks like an outer corner of a room that is closer to us appears shorter and the second one, which looks like an inner corner that is further away from us appears longer.

Based on the linear perspective, it is inferred that the first figure is close and the second is further away. Due to size constancy, our understanding of how the size of an object changes depending on the distance; if objects appear the same size, but one is further away, it must mean the further away object is larger in reality.

Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception, Müller-Lyer illusion, StudySmarterThe Müller-Lyer illusion, both lines are the same length, but the second one appears longer, StudySmarter Originals, Alicja Blaszkiewicz

Nurture or nature?

Constructivist Theory of Perception supports a strong influence of nurture on the process of perception. It claims that perception depends on our previously learned knowledge, experience, and frameworks about the world.

Because making context-dependent inferences and interpretations is a key aspect of the constructivist model, nature is not enough to account for all aspects of the perceptual process.

Evaluation of Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception

Let's consider the evidence for Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception and the contrasting theories.

Supporting evidence

We tend to perceive certain aspects of sensory information and ignore others selectively. Our perception depends on the context and stored knowledge, specifically culture, motivation, emotion and expectations.

When competing with others, our motivation to win can make us perceive our competitors negatively, only because they are our rivals in that context. For example, if you support one sports team, you are likely to view supporters of competing teams negatively.

This explains some visual illusions - when our brain is "fooled" or confused by visual illusions it is due to our assumptions of how objects look in the real world. Our pre-existing expectations of what visual cues (like depth cues) mean in real-life 3D stimuli distorts our perception of 2D illusions.

  • Example: The Müller-Lyer illusion

Contrasting Theories

Gibson proposed a direct theory of perception. According to Gibson, perception is innate and doesn't require top-down processes like creating interpretations.

Gibson claimed that we receive complex information from sensory input, which is enough to make sense of what we see without interpreting it or making inferences. We automatically know what we see and what we can do with it based on only sensory information.


Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception - Key takeaways

  • Gregory proposed a constructivist theory of perception. Perception doesn't objectively reflect sensory stimuli; perception is an active process that constructs a model of reality based on both sensations and inferences.

  • Gregory's Constructivist Theory of perception is an example of a top-down approach to perception. Constructivist Theory of perception highlight the role of nurture in the perceptual process.

  • Inferences allow us to construct a model of reality from incomplete sensory information based on our stored knowledge and context.

  • The model of reality constructed from perception is biased by our perceptual set rather than being objective.

  • The perceptual set is influenced by culture, motivation, emotion and expectation.

  • Gregory's constructivist theory of perception, contrary to Gibson's direct theory of perception, accounts for the perceptual set and visual illusions.

Frequently Asked Questions about Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception

The constructivist view of perception argues that perception is an active process influenced by stored knowledge, expectations and context. Perception doesn't objectively reflect sensory stimuli but constructs a model of reality based on sensations and past knowledge. 

Final Gregory's Constructivist Theory of Perception Quiz

Question

How is Gregory's Constructivist Theory Of Perception different from Gibson's Theory of Direct Perception?

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Answer

The Constructivist Theory stresses the importance of both sensory information and past knowledge that help us interpret what we see. 

While the Direct Theory of Perception argues that sensory information is in itself sufficient to account for perception without the need for interpretation or inferences.

Show question

Question

What is the Constructivist Theory of Perception?

Show answer

Answer

The Constructivist Theory proposes that perception is an active process influenced by stored knowledge, expectations and context. Perception doesn't objectively reflect sensory stimuli, but rather constructs a model of reality based on both sensations and past knowledge. 

Show question

Question

Who developed the Constructivist Theory of perception?

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Answer

The Constructivist Theory of Perception was developed by Richard Gregory.

Show question

Question

How is the model of reality constructed based on Gregory's theory?

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Answer

A model of reality is constructed based on both sensations and past knowledge which helps us make sense of what we see.

Show question

Question

What is a top-down approach?

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Answer

The top-down approach stresses the role of what we already know and expect on what we see. What we perceive is not always the objective truth but rather an interpretation of it, which relies on previous knowledge. 


Show question

Question

Give an example of how context can affect our perception.

Show answer

Answer

If you are scared of spiders and see a spider in your room, you are likely to perceive it to be bigger than it actually is. Your emotion in that context - fear, makes you exaggerate the size of the spider. 

Show question

Question

How are inferences made?

Show answer

Answer

An inference is our best guess of what we see. Inferences are based on past knowledge, past experiences and visual cues like depth cues or motion cues, perspective.  

Show question

Question

Give an example of a perceptual inference.

Show answer

Answer

The hollow mask illusion, when seeing the concave side of a 3D mask of a face, we experience an illusion that it looks like it's convex. One explanation of this illusion is that we are so used to seeing convex faces that our brain makes an inference that the mask is convex rather than concave.

Show question

Question

What influences our model of reality?

Show answer

Answer

The model of reality constructed from perception is biased by the perceptual set.

Show question

Question

What affects the perceptual set?

Show answer

Answer

The perceptual set is influenced by culture, motivation, emotion and expectation. 

Show question

Question

What is the perceptual set?

Show answer

Answer

Perceptual set refers to the tendency to select certain information that is deemed important, focus on it and ignore less "relevant" aspects of what we see. 


Show question

Question

List evidence for the influence of culture on perception.

Show answer

Answer

Hudson (1960) found cross-cultural differences in interpreting depth cues in pictures. 

Segall et al. (1963) found that cultures, which are not used to seeing right angles in the form of corners of rooms in buildings are less susceptible to the Muller-Lyer illusion. 

Show question

Question

What explanation of the Muller-Lyer illusion did Gregory propose?

Show answer

Answer

Based on the linear perspective it is inferred that the first figure is close and the second is further away. 


Due to size constancy, our understanding of how the size of an object changes depending on the distance, if objects appear the same size but one is further away it must mean the further away object is larger in reality.

Show question

Question

Which statements are true?

Show answer

Answer

Constructivist Theory of Perception is an example of a top-down approach.

Show question

Question

What is the supporting evidence for the Constructivist Theory of Perception?

Show answer

Answer

It accounts for the perceptual set, explains why our perception depends on factors like culture, motivation, emotion and expectations.


Explains some visual illusions like the Müller-Lyer illusion.

Show question

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