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Influences on Perception

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Influences on Perception

Have you ever seen a sunset? Have you been captivated by the brilliant colors that bring you peace and perhaps romantic memories? This sensory experience of the world is referred to as perception. Influences on Perception view of a beautiful sunset StudySmarterPerception of a beautiful sunset, pexels.com

  • How does perception work?
  • What are psychological influences on perception?
  • What are environmental influences on perception?
  • What are cultural influences on perception?
  • What are media influences on perception?

Perception Process

Perception is the process of organizing, analyzing, and consciously perceiving sensory data from the environment. It’s the way we comprehend or interpret what’s going on around us, based on points of view and experiences.

We acquire or receive information through one or more of the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste. Perception is how we interpret that information from our senses, to have meaning. Two people can have the same sensory experience but interpret the information differently. One person might see a painting as just a messy splash of colors, while another will consider it a masterpiece.

The world around us contains many stimuli that our brains need to process. It happens continually without awareness or intention.

The things you perceive daily, like the light from your window, the feel of objects on your skin, the music you hear on the radio, or the fragrance of baked bread, are examples that make up your conscious experiences, allowing you to interact with people and surroundings.

The perception process is divided into three stages (selection, organization, and interpretation), which begin with external inputs and end with our perception of those stimuli.

Selection

The initial stage of the perception process is when a person decides what to focus on, either consciously or unconsciously. The mind will focus on something specific because it cannot concentrate on all the stimuli received. It could be a fragrance, an emotion, a sound, or anything else; whatever it is, it becomes the preferred stimulus.

Organization

Organization is the second stage of perception in which we cognitively organize stimuli into meaningful and understandable patterns. The process makes it possible to make sense of what we’re seeing. Factors that impact how a person links experiences into wholes or patterns include closeness, similarity, and consistency.

A person may mistakenly perceive two people standing in line at a food stand as being together, based on their closeness or proximity. Or, someone may mistakenly perceive a company’s boss as a regular employee due to his "casual" attire.

Interpretation

The process through which we represent and comprehend stimuli is known as interpretation. It is when we make meaning of what has happened and then decide what it means to us. Different people might reach different conclusions given the same stimulus. The interpretations are subjective and are based on personal factors such as cultural norms, interests, values, experiences, ambitions, motivation, self-concept, and other personal influences.

Influences on Perception in Psychology

There are many factors at play in influencing the overall perception process.

Internal Factors

Let's look at some of the major internal factors that influence perception.

Personality

An individual's personality affects how they process information and choose their perceptions. For example, meticulous persons are likely to go through details and external cues more carefully than unconscientious persons.

Motivation and Learning

People are more motivated to respond to stimuli that positively affected them in the past, or to satisfy an immediate need in a particular situation. A mother who just bought $200 worth of groceries feels hungry already. She perceives that she is too tired to cook, and decides to order take-out instead.

Experience

Learned patterns from a prior perception also affect how people attribute meaning and behave according to that perception. A student who has three projects to submit tries to decide which task he should accomplish first. He learned from his last semester that when he worked on the most accessible project first, he could have more time to do the other, more challenging projects. Based on this pattern, he perceives which of the three projects is the most difficult, then decides to follow through with what he did in the previous semester, to complete all his projects on time.

Influences on Perception Advertisements displaying external factors on perception StudySmarterAdvertisements displaying external factors on perception, pexels.com

External Factors

The image above illustrates some basic concepts external factors that influence perception.

  • Size: The bigger the size of the stimulus, the more likely it is to attract attention.

  • Intensity: More intense stimuli, such as brighter colors, are more noticeable.

  • Contrast: The perception that stands out the most, different from the usual, will likely catch the eye.

  • Movement: When something is moving, it catches the attention and is perceived more easily.

  • Repetition: Repetitive exposure influences selection and is likely to be more easily perceived.

  • Novelty and familiarity: New ideas are more likely to be perceivable. However, familiarity is also attention-grabbing in certain circumstances.

Physiological Influences

In a physiological sense, influences on perception may come from developmental changes in our bodies as we age, how we process sensory inputs, health, hunger, and neurological conditions affecting behavior.

Senses

A person’s ability to receive and interpret sensory information can influence his perception. A person who is color-blind may perceive a painting differently from another person who sees colors differently. Persons who react to stimuli more strongly than others may perceive something as a threat or harm.

Age

Age can affect our perception. Growing up as a child, you may like wearing matching outfits with your siblings because this is something valuable to you, but as you become older, it’s not a big deal anymore. As a teenager, maybe you don’t see the importance of financial literacy, savings, and investment. However, as an adult, you now see its value and begin to educate yourself on spending wisely. Another physiological aspect of age is the experiences gained, and the developmental differences of the lifespan.

A young adult may preferably choose a long-distance drive for a holiday because he perceives that it’s enjoyable, compared to an elderly person who may prefer to stay at home or go somewhere nearby.

Neurobehavioral Challenges

Neurobehavioral challenges resulting from stroke or other brain injuries can also affect perception. Common behavioral challenges include aggression, difficulty regulating emotions and behavior, restlessness, cognitive changes, inappropriate sexual behaviors, and impulsivity. Persons with ADHD or bipolar disorder may also exhibit some neurobehavioral challenges that may affect their perception.

Psychological Influences

These influences include mood or emotional state, and self-concept. Psychological factors impact how we perceive others, and perception of others also relates to influences on perception communication. How we perceive others may not always be accurate. This can affect how we communicate that perception through behavior and human relationships. The halo or reverse halo effect exemplifies this. This concept tells us that people have the tendency to generalize their perception of others, based on one negative or positive trait that they see.

A newly hired person at work approaches you with a friendly smile. You thought that he was friendly, creating a perception of that new colleague as having a great personality. Eventually, you begin to make friends with that person. This example is the halo effect.

The reverse halo effect is when you have a terrible first impression of the new hire. You thought that he was arrogant and may want to avoid any interactions with him because of how you see him.

Mood

Do you sometimes find yourself overreacting in some situations? Moods can also affect perception. A person in a bad mood may find a minor inconvenience very stressful or annoying, which usually wouldn't affect them much on other days. The opposite holds true when you're in a good mood.

When waiting in line at a restaurant, you may become impatient. But if you’re in a good mood, it’s easier for you to stay and not get annoyed, focusing instead on the meal to come.

Self-Concept

Self-concept is how a person sees himself and the beliefs that go along with it. This concept isn’t permanent. It may change from time to time based on a person’s positive and negative experiences and interactions with others.

A parent who perceives his child as good at playing the piano may likely reinforce that perception on the child and motivate him to become better at it. A teacher who perceives his students as low-performing may manifest that in his interactions with his students and affect their self-concepts. They may end up thinking they aren’t capable enough to succeed academically.

It can also be true of how a person perceives others. A person who has an overall positive belief about himself can confidently interact with others and create healthy perceptions of other people.

Environmental Influences

The type of environment a person sees and exists, in may also influence his perception of different things.

One example is a typical learning environment. A positive and supportive environment can help motivate students to engage more in class compared to an unpleasant environment.

Physical factors in the background can also influence perception. A study by Yildirim et al. (2011) showed that in a computer classroom setup, factors such as the distance from one computer to another, spaciousness, room décor such as plants, and visual appeal affected students’ perception of the learning space positively or negatively. This suggests that a good learning environment can boost motivation and productivity.

Cultural Influences

The culture you grew up with may affect how you perceive people and situations. These factors affect how you select, organize, and interpret information, leading to the perception that you may have of a particular scenario, experience, or even in dealings with other people.

Let's discuss how we categorize different animals. In selecting information and organizing it into various groups, people may group chickens, cows, and pigs as animals for food, and dogs and cats as pets. Some people may perceive dogs as food through cultural interpretation, while others might consider eating dog meat inhumane and disgusting.

In the US, eating corn on a cob is widely accepted. Other cultures see corn as pigs’ food and not for human consumption. Movies or even cartoons that have been banned in one country are freely accepted in another. The values embedded in the culture affect how one may perceive a movie.

Media Influences

Repetition is just one external factor advertisers use to influence people’s perception of a product or service. However, there is more to media influence on perception. There are two current theories on media influence: agenda-setting, and cultivation theory. In the agenda-setting theory, the media shapes people’s perception by selecting a topic, making it sensational, and highlighting its coverage over other issues to impact people, thereby shaping their opinions about it. The cultivation theory states that media can influence the attitude and behavior of a person. Whatever media content a person consumes and is repeatedly exposed to can cultivate his perceptions about the world.

Other examples of media influence are political campaigns, advertisements, and public service messages.

Influences on Perception - Key takeaways

  • Perception is the process of organizing, analyzing, and consciously perceiving sensory data from the environment.

  • There are three stages in the perception process: selection, organization, and interpretation.

    • Selection is the initial stage of the perception process when a person decides what to focus on, either consciously or unconsciously.

    • Organization is the second stage of perception, in which we cognitively organize stimuli into meaningful and understandable patterns.

    • Interpretation is the process through which we represent and comprehend stimuli.

  • Environmental influences include the physical factors and the people at play in the environment.

  • Cultural influences affect how a person selects perception, organizes that information, and interprets it into a behavior.

  • Cultivation theory states that what media portrays can influence the attitude and behavior of a person. The type of content a person consumes influences his perception of the world.


References

  1. Yildirim, K., Capanoglu, A., & Cagatay, K. (2011). "The effects of physical environmental factors on students’ perceptions in computer classrooms." Indoor and Built Environment, 20 (5), 501-510. Doi: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1420326x11411135

Frequently Asked Questions about Influences on Perception

There are many factors at play in influencing the overall perception process. These factors are categorized into internal and external factors.

Psychological influences include mood or emotional state, and self-concept. 

In a physiological sense, influences on perception may come from developmental changes in our bodies as we age, how we process sensory inputs, health, hunger, and neurological conditions affecting behavior.

The culture you grew up with may affect how you perceive people and situations. These factors affect how you select, organize, and interpret information.

There are two current theories on media influence: agenda-setting, and cultivation theory. 

Final Influences on Perception Quiz

Question

Choose the best example of perceptual selection.

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Answer

Despite the various noises in the background, a person strolling down a busy street recognizes the sound of an automobile.

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Question

The stage of the perception process where we assign meaning and understand the external stimuli based on personal factors.

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Answer

Interpretation

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Question

In this stage of the perception process, we cognitively organize stimuli into meaningful and understandable patterns.

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Answer

Organization

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Question

Which statement is NOT true about perception?

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Answer

People will always have the same perception from a sensory experience.

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Question

Your boss tasks you and a co-worker with a big project. You noticed that your conscientious colleague is considering all the details of the project and writing in her notebook. What is the internal factor best exemplified in this situation?

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Answer

Personality

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Question

A child went to the toy store with her parents. Her parents asked her to choose a toy as a gift for her birthday. She decided on a life-size Barbie doll. What is the external factor best exemplified in this situation?

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Answer

Size

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Question

A teacher presented an animated video related to the topic and saw that it engaged her students. What external factor is involved in this situation?

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Answer

Movement

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Question

Which is not a physiological influence on perception?

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Answer

Self-concept

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Question

All of the following are psychological influences on perception except:

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Answer

Hunger

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Question

You went to your friend’s birthday party hungry. Your friend begins to introduce you to his other friends, but you’re having difficulty maintaining and focusing on the conversation because of your hunger. What influence is exemplified here?

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Answer

Physiological influence

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Question

You usually chat with one of your colleagues during office breaks; however, the following day, you noticed that he seemed a bit grumpy, and when you approached him, he appeared to ignore what you said. What could have influenced his perception of you?

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Answer

Emotional state

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Question

Which is NOT true about self-concept?

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Answer

It is permanent.

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Question

A group of friends stayed at an Airbnb. They enjoyed their stay because the place was very cozy, visually appealing, and well planned. They decide to re-book for their next holiday. What influence on perception is best represented in this scenario?

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Answer

Environmental influence

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Question

Rats have been considered pests in most countries, but certain groups in India feed rats and treat them as sacred. What kind of influence is this?

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Answer

Cultural influence

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Question

A disease outbreak was reported on the news. People became aware of the disease and began to pay attention to their health and surroundings. What is the media influence theory represented in this instance?

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Answer

Agenda-setting theory

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