Perception (Encyclopedia of Science)
Perception is the quality of being aware of the conditions in one's environment. For example, visual perception refers to the ability of an organism to see objects in the world around it. Other forms of perception involve the senses of touch, smell, taste, and sound.
Perception is not a passive activity. That is, one way to think of visual perception is to say that light rays bounce off an object an enter one's eyes. Those light rays then create a "sight" message that travels to the person's brain where the object is recorded. But that explanation is incomplete. The brain also acts on the message received from the eyes in ways that are not totally understood by scientists. The important point is that the real world is not necessarily the world that one perceives.
A classic experiment illustrates this point. A group of young boys are all asked to look carefully at a nickel. The nickel is then taken away, and the boys are asked to draw a picture of the nickel. Boys in this experiment who come from wealthy families tend to draw the nickel smaller in size than boys from poor families. Each boy's perception of the nickel is affected to some extent by how important a nickel is in his life.
The biology of perception
All systems of perception have a common structure. They consist of cells designed specifically to detect some...
(The entire section is 798 words.)
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