Perception and
Sensation and perception
■ How do our brain register “what is out there”?
■ What other senses do we use to register the
amazing world?
■ How do we see, smell, hear, feel and taste?
■ Are there other “extra-sensory” preceptors?
■ How are we aware of our bodies?
■ How are we aware of other people?
■ Are we aware of everything around us?
■ Psychologists define sensation as the registration of
properties of an object or event that occurs when a type
of receptor ( as the retina and the skin) is stimulated
(Kosslynn and Rosenberg, 2006)
Sensation arise when enough physical energy strikes
the sense organ, so that the receptor cells send neural
impulses to the brain.
In other words, sensation is the process that yields our
immediate experience of the stimuli in our environment
(Gerow, 1997)
Other senses
■ Vestibular sense: tells us about balance, about where we
are in relation to gravity and about acceleration/
Kinesthetic sense: tells us the about the movement or
position of our muscles and joints.
Pain: a special sense
Subliminal perception
Extra-sensory perception
Sensation and Perception
■ If all of us receive the same stimuli from our
senses, are our perception the same too?
■ Perception occurs when you organized and
interpreted the sensory input as signaling a
particular object or event .
■ Perception relies on two phases of processing:
(1) Organization into coherent unit
(2) Identifying what and where
■ Perception is the process of selectively attending to
information and assigning meaning to it. (Verderber and
Verderber, 2005)
The process of selecting, organizing and interpreting
sensory information ( Huffman, 2007)
The brain select the information it receives from our
sense organs, organizes the information selected,
interprets and evaluates it . (Verderber and Verderber,
■ Perception involves selecting, organizing and
interpreting information in order to give personal
meaning to the communication we receive (
Seiler and Beall, 2008; page 30)
■ What we perceive about ourselves, objects and
others give meanings to our experiences.
■ It is these meanings, based on our perceptions
that we communicate to others.
■ Perception may sounds simple but it is actually a
very complex process.
■ If not understood, will lead to
■ The process of perception starts with
awareness and then followed by perception
Perception: Awareness
■ Being aware of what is going on, and taking in
the sights, sounds, smells etc., can only occur
when we are paying attention to them
■ Do you think that if we are in the same room, we
are aware of the same things?
Perception: Perception Formation
■ The way our mind filters and sorts information has a
deep effect on how we perceive others, how we talk to
them and how they respond to us.
Each of us organise and interprets the world differently.
Psychologists use the term cognitive complexity to
explain how our minds process and store information.
Children has simple processing information system
whereas adults have complex processing systems.
The Nature of Perception
■ Lack of information on how perception works
leads to miscommunications; including
misjudgments of other people’s behaviours and
The Nature of Perception
■ Does our brains absorb information like the
The Nature of Perception: Selection
■ There is too much information- so the brain
■ We are exposed to millions of bits of information,
at one time, but the mind can process only a
small fraction.
How do we select?
■ On the conscious and subconscious level, the
brain selects information based on needs,
interests and expectations.
Needs, Interests and Expectations
■ We are likely to pay attention to information that
meets our needs – of all types.
■ We pay attention to things or people which/ who
are of our interest.
■ We are likely to see what we are expected to
see and to miss information which violates our
How do we select?
■ We choose to experience or not experience
certain things is called selective exposure.
■ Focusing on specific stimuli while ignoring or
paying less attention to other stimuli is called
selective attention.
■ Selecting to remember certain stimuli but no
others is called selective retention.
■ Selection is the sorting of stimuli from another.
The nature of perception: Organization
■ Imagine when you walk into a room filled with
■ Organization is categorizing of stimuli from the
environment in order to make sense of it.
The role of experience
How do we organize information?
■ Closure: filling in missing information so as to form a
complete picture
Proximity : Grouping of two or more stimuli that are close
to one another, based on assumption that because the
objects or people appear together, they are basically the
Similarity ( or pattern) : the grouping of stimuli that
resemble one another in size, shape, colour or other
The Nature of Perception : Interpretation
■ Interpretation is the process of assigning
meaning to the stimuli.
How do we interpret?
■ We use :
1. Past experience
2. New information
3. Other people’s opinions
Interpretation: Using past experience
■ Our interpretations of stimuli depend on our past
The more familiar we are with the objects, events and
people, the less ambiguous our interpretations of them
will be.
However, our past experience can be limited, or there
can be exceptions to a certain phenomenon. Our
interpretation can be inaccurate. For example, the
person who always smiles ( associated with kind and
caring) can also be a murderer.
Interpretation: Based on new information
■ Being open to new information is important. Let not past
experience blind us from finding fresh meanings in new
situations or events.
A bad experience from a sales person does not mean
that all future sales experience will be bad. There are
many good, honest and concern sales person.
Experience helps us to be more cautious, but not closing
doors to new meaningful experiences.
The same information however, has different meanings
to different people, as each of us has our own “lenses” or
“filters” .
Interpretation: Based on others’ opinions
■ We are also being influenced by other people, via
various means. One of the means is mass media.
■ The relationship between us and the “other” people also
play a role in our interpretation.
■ The “intensity” of the other people’s opinion also matters.
Something said many times is more likely to influence us
than something said once.
Perceptual Differences
■ Each of us are different and our perceptions thus are
Our difference in perceptions are influenced by :
Perceptual set
Attribution error
Physical characteristics
Psychological state
Cultural background
Perceptual set
■ When we ignore new information and rely solely on past
experiences to interpret, we are using perceptual set.
A perceptual set allows our past experiences to control
our perceptions such that we ignore new information.
Perceptual set is thus a fixed, previously determined
view of events, objects or people.
Perceptual set is a form of stereotyping.
Stereotyping is the categorizing of events, objects or
people without regard to the unique individual
characteristics or qualities.
Perceptual set
■ Perceptual set and stereotypes involve both selective attention and
selective retention. The difference is that stereotyping uses
categories while perceptual set does not.
Perceptual set interferes with communication.
Perceptual set prevents us from seeing or hearing things which are
different from which we expect. As a result we fail to notice new
things or changes.
At times perceptual set help us make decisions efficiently.
The key is: do not assume. perceptual sets are always accurate
Attribution error
■ It is human nature to attribute or assign causes to
people’s behaviour.
Attribution is the complex process through which we
attempt to understand the reasons behind others’
Two elements influence attribution:
1. Situation ( environment)
2. Traits of the person ( disposition)
Attribution error
■ Research shows that we are more likely to overestimate
dispositional causes and underestimate situational
causes. This bias is called the fundamental attribution
Attribution error occurs when we perceive others as
acting as they do because they are “that kind of person”
( that is due to his/her trait), rather than because of
external factors which have influenced their behaviour
Physical Characteristics
■ Our physical characteristics such as weight, height, body
shape, health and the ability to use our senses
influences our perceptual differences.
For example, a person who is visually impaired
experiences the world differently compared to a sighted
Height and age of a person also influence perception of
Myriad of physical characteristics influence our
perception; colours, tidiness, facial hair, observed
disabilities etc
Psychological State
■ Our psychological state influences our perception.
■ When everything goes well and we are in a positive state
of mind, we perceive things positively.
When under stress or in anger, or when self-image is
poor, perception tends to be negative.
Cultural background
■ Cultural background affects perception
■ Culture can be defined as learned behaviours that are
communicated from one generation to another to
promote individual and social survival.
A culture evolves through communication; beliefs,
artifacts and lifestyle are shared.
Physical features such as skin colour or eye shape has
little or nothing to do with cultural identity.
Cultural background
■ Much of cultural influence occurs without our realizing it.
We are usually not conscious of the fact that much of
our behaviour is conditioned by culture.
A competent communicator does not depend on physical
characteristics to make assumptions about people’s
values, beliefs, attitudes or behaviours.
To avoid or reduce misunderstandings, patience and
tolerance are needed.
Cultural background: ethnocentrism
■ Being unable to appreciate ideas, customs or beliefs that
differ from those of one’s own culture and assume that
one’s own view is superior to that of other culture is
referred to as ethnocentrism.
Ethnocentrism alters our perception of others. There is a
tendency to use our own culture as the yardstick by
which we judge all other cultures/people who are
different from us.
With ethnocentrism, other culture are viewed to be
Ethnocentrism vs cultural relativism
■ One form of ethnocentrism is cultural myopia.
■ Cultural myopia refers to perceiving one’s own culture as
superior and having a very narrow or shortsighted view
of cultures other than own culture.
When someone takes on a broader worldview and open
their minds to different culture, and not judging other
cultures as inferior because they are different, the
person is accepting/practicing cultural relativism.
Ethnocentrism vs cultural relativism
■ People who practice cultural relativism strive to
understand differences rather than judging; promoting
intercultural relations.
Cultural relativism is “we-oriented” whereas
ethnocentrism is “me-oriented”.
Cultural relativists are willing to understand people from
different cultures without being judgemental.
■ Gender affects our perception.
■ Gender is socially constructed and is related to
masculine and feminine behaviours that are learned.
Some theorists believe that men and women understand
the world differently ; resulting in different ways of
Does “gender gap” exist?
The roles of men and women are changing?
■ The media greatly influence us.
■ Media shape our views.
– How much is our perception influenced by the media? In
– During election/campaigns
– In mails
– Etc
■ Competent communicators check for truthfulness and
Improving perception
■ Recognize the uniqueness of each person frame of
reference and therefore always question the accuracy of
our perception.
Be an active perceiver: Seek more information
Realize that perception change over time
Distinguish facts from inferences.
Aware of the role of perceptions play in communication.
Keep an open mind
Do perception checking
■ Perception is the process of selecting, organizing and
interpreting information in order to give meaning( or
make sense of the situation).
Perception is being influenced by many factors such as
experience, culture, gender, context, etc
To improve communication we must remember that
perception is seldom the same for everyone; our
perception is one of the many possibilities.
Make efforts to improve our perception.
■ Seiler, W. J and Beall, M. L ( 2008). Communication.
Making Connections ( 7th ed). Boston: Pearson
Perkins,P. S ( 2008). The Art and Science of
Communication. Tools for Effective Communication in
the Work Place. New Jersey: Wiley.
Hybels, S., and Weaver II, R. L ( 2004). Communcating
Effectively ( 7th ed). Boston: Mc Graw Hill
Verderber, R. F. and Verderber, K.S (2005)
Communicate( 11th ed). CA: Thomson/Wadsworth
■ Aamodt, M.G (2007). Industrial /organizational
psychology. An applied approach. Belmont, CA:
Kosslynn & Rosenberg ( 2006). Psychology in Context
(3rd ed). Boston, MA: Pearson International edition.
Gerow, G. R ( 1997). Psychology. An Introduction (5th
ed). New York: Addison-Wesley Publishers Inc.

Perception and Communication