Sensation and perception are mental processes that are sometimes mistaken for each other. A fine distinction, however, can be drawn between them. Sensation is defined as, “the conscious experience that follows immediately upon the stimulation of a sense organ or a sensory nerve.” The first result of a stimulus situation is sensation and an elaboration of beyond this first result is perception (Halonen & Santrock, 1996).
A factor influencing man’s behavior and his adjustment is how he looks at places, persons, objects, things, and situations.
His interpretation about affect greatly his business and everyday life. If, for example, he looks at a store lay-out and says that it is conducive to increased sales volume, then that is how he perceives the store’s lay-out. The same is true for an employer who evaluates job applicants. He interviews and gives tests to them. The final decision depends upon his awareness of the different traits or qualifications expected of the applicants. This is what is termed as perception (Halonen & Santrock, 1996).
The dictionary of education defines perception in its most limited sense as “awareness of external objects, conditions, relationship as a result of sensory stimulation” (McKenna, 2000).
Beach and Clark (1959) define it as “the process which involves the receiving and organizing or interpreting of stimuli, by the individual (McKenna, 2000).
From the aforementioned definitions, one thing is common and that is the awareness of a stimulus. This awareness is achieved through our sense organs, muscles and glands, and connectors (McKenna, 2000).
- Characteristics of the Perception Process
Perception as the action by which the mind refers its sensations to external object has certain characteristics. Beach and Clark enumerated and discussed the characteristics of perception as follows (McKenna, 2000; Clement, 1981):
It is Selective
When one walks down the street, he is not aware of everything in his environment. Eh pays attention to specific or particular stimuli only and not to all sounds, sight and other types of stimuli about him.
Through our sense organs, in other words, we select only those things we are interested in. there is but a particular thing that may attract, maintain, or distract the attention of the individual (McKenna, 2000; Clement, 1981)..
It is Structuring or Patterning Process
What a person perceives as common to him is a form or structure. This is what is called configuration or wholeness in Gestalt psychology. A person perceives a real thing when it comes in the correct pattern or structure. A complete pattern of an object means that it has all the attributes of the object: (1) it must have shape, (2) it must have a color, (3) it must have a smell; (4) it must have a taste (McKenna, 2000; Clement, 1981).
It Contains Meaning
The particular sensations experienced by a person are interpreted in a way that will give them meaning in terms of the person’s experience. For a person it is difficult to perceive or understand a thing or stimulus if he does not know it. Before one perceives a thing, he must be familiar with it first. A person attaches meaning to a thing he has knowledge of or is familiar with (McKenna, 2000; Clement, 1981)..
It is Adaptive or Subjective
When a person perceives a thing, he sees it according to his likes, desires, ambitions or beliefs. In other words, he suits his perception according to his likes, his feelings, his desires, and his beliefs (McKenna, 2000; Clement, 1981)..
- Factors Affecting or Influencing Perception
There are several factors to be considered to understand perception. These are the sense organs, intelligence, the emotions and feelings, culture, training, social factors, interests, attitudes and motives (Landy, 1985; Baron, 1983; Clement, 1981).
- The Role of the Senses
How a person interprets things or situations depends primarily upon his sense organs. Some senses are stronger than others. There are those who have a keen sense of smell; there are those with very poor eyesight. This may result in different perceptions of objects (Landy, 1985; Baron, 1983; Clement, 1981).
Apparel to a person’s sense makes perception effective. This is illustrated in advertizing. The more senses advertizing appeals to the more lasting the impression is (Landy, 1985; Baron, 1983; Clement, 1981).
Culture influences our perception both directly and indirectly. Indirectly, because culture influences our personal needs and motives. Directly, because a person’s habits of looking at and interpreting things, objects, persons, and situations depend partly on his culture (Landy, 1985; Baron, 1983; Clement, 1981).
Another factor of perception is training and conditioning. Training means the education and experience the individual gains in his life. It involves observing others and/or following instructions. The point is, what will happen in any particular situation and what will done by the people involved, will depend upon the past conditioning and training of the various individuals involved (Landy, 1985; Baron, 1983; Clement, 1981).
- Social Factors
A person’s social experiences exert a strong influence on how he sees or interprets a situation, specially a social situation. In his contact with his family, friend, school or business associates his responses to situations are influenced by experiences with these social groups. In other words, his perception of situation depends upon his social interactions with people and society (Landy, 1985; Baron, 1983; Clement, 1981).
Emotions influence one’s perception. A situation which appears “very bad” during a negative emotional moment often turns out to be “not bad after all” in a calmer moment. Our behavior is not only due to physiological causes but also to psychological causes. These psychological causes are partly due to an individual’s emotion (Landy, 1985; Baron, 1983; Clement, 1981).
When a person is intelligent, he does not only see objects as they are but interprets them in terms of beauty, uniqueness, and the efforts made behind the construction, in other words, he sees things in several dimensions (Landy, 1985; Baron, 1983; Clement, 1981).
- Motives or Drives
A person’s motives, needs, desires and drives condition our perception. A salesman displays wares in his counter with the bodily or psychological needs or desires of the customers in mind. The customers’ attention will be attracted because of their personal motives (Landy, 1985; Baron, 1983; Clement, 1981).
Different individuals perceive the same object in varying ways influenced by their interests. A high school graduate may perceive a city as a place where he can further his studies. A businessman on the other hand, would see it as a good place for business, while an employee from a rural place would see as the place where he can get better play or salary (Landy, 1985; Baron, 1983; Clement, 1981).
The attitude of a person is a determining factor of perception. A favorable attitude toward an object or thing will make him see the object as a desirable thing (Landy, 1985; Baron, 1983; Clement, 1981).
Baron, R. 1983. Behavior in Organizations: Understanding and Managing the Human Side of Work, Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Clement, R.W. 1981. Evaluating the Effectiveness of Management Training. Human Resources Management. Vol. 20, pp.8-13.
Halonen, Jane S., and John Santrock. Psychology: Contexts of behavior. 1996. Brown & Benchmark, USA, p. 280.
Landy, F.J. 1985. Psychology of Work behavior. 3rd Ed. Dorsey Press.
McKenna, Eugene, 2000. Business Psychology and Organizational Behavior: A Student’s Handbook. 3rd Ed. Psychology press: Taylor and Francis Group.