perception, in psychology, mental organization and interpretation of sensory information. The Gestalt psychologists studied extensively the ways in which people organize and select from the vast array of stimuli that are presented to them, concentrating particularly on visual stimuli. Perception is influenced by a variety of factors, including the intensity and physical dimensions of the stimulus; such activities of the sense organs as effects of preceding stimulation; the subject's past experience; attention factors such as readiness to respond to a stimulus; and motivation and emotional state of the subject. Stimulus elements in visual organization form perceived patterns according to their nearness to each other, their similarity, the tendency for the subject to perceive complete figures, and the ability of the subject to distinguish important figures from background. Perceptual constancy is the tendency of a subject to interpret one object in the same manner, regardless of such variations as distance, angle of sight, or brightness. Through selective attention, the subject focuses on a limited number of stimuli, and ignores those that are considered less important. Depth perception, considered to be innate in most animals, is produced by a variety of visual cues indicating perspective, and by a slight disparity in the images of an object on the two retinas. An absolute threshold is the minimal physical intensity of a stimulus that a subject can normally perceive, whereas a difference threshold is the minimal amount of change in a stimulus that can be consciously detected by the subject. Recent studies have shown that stimuli are actually perceived in the brain, while sensory organs merely gather the signals. William Dobelle's research, for instance, has offered significant hope for the blind.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Howard Robinson.
Routledge, 1994
Perception and Reason
Bill Brewer.
Clarendon Press, 1999
Perception: Theory, Development, and Organisation
Paul Rookes; Jane Willson.
Routledge, 2000
Perception and Its Development: A Tribute to Eleanor J. Gibson
Anne D. Pick; Eleanor J. Gibson.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1979
Perceiving Events and Objects
Gunnar Jansson; Sten Sture Bergström; William Epstein; Gunnar Johansson.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994
Attention, Perception, and Memory: An Integrated Introduction
Elizabeth A. Styles.
Psychology Press, 2005
Cognitive Approaches to Human Perception
Soledad Ballesteros.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1994
Brain and Perception: Holonomy and Structure in Figural Processing
Karl H. Pribram.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1991
Perception and the Physical World: Psychological and Philosophical Issues in Perception
Dieter Heyer; Rainer Mausfeld.
Wiley, 2002
Objectivity and Human Perception: Revisions and Crossroads in Psychoanalysis and Philosophy
M. D. Faber.
University of Alberta Press, 1985
The Psychology of Group Perception: Perceived Variability, Entitativity, and Essentialism
Vincent Yzerbyt; Charles M. Judd; Olivier Corneille.
Psychology Press, 2003
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