The Perception Process: Selection, Organization and Interpretation

Now I’m going to quickly go over the perception process. This has been in your readings, but students tend to have a lot of trouble with the perception process. So I just want to go over it very quickly. Just to add some extra examples and kind of simplify it for you. So you see where we’re coming from here.

The Perception

Perception is just basically how we make sense of things. How we make judgments about things, how we interpret our world. We kind of all go through this frame of reference. We all have a different frame of reference based on our backgrounds, our environments, our culture. There’s a lot of different factors here. That’s why it’s so easy to miss communicate or have errors and perceptions because everybody’s coming from different past experiences. Let’s Go Through the Process.


In the selection process we’re choosing something to focus on. For example, I’m in a room right now, there’s a lot of things going on in here, for pretend. I’m actually in a room all by myself right now, but for pretend purposes. I’m in a room there’s a lot of things going on in the room. There’s other students, there’s my instructor in the front There’s people walking down the hallway, somebody’s, you know. Phone is going off, there’s a lot of things going on in the room. I need to focus on one thing So I’m going to choose to select to focus on my instructor. Because I’m in class right now, and not focus on the people in the hallway. Not focus on the other students.

Really in terms of selection you can really only focus on one thing at a time, and again this happens. This process happens so fast in your brain. You don’t even really think about it, but you’re really only focusing on one thing at a time.

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So those of you who think you’re really good at multitasking. You’re really good at just shifting attention from one thing to another, but we’re not really multitasking. We’re really only focusing and selecting one thing at a time to perceive. So I’m watching my instructor and I’m tuning out everything else in the room. I’m going to focus and I’m going to perceive, make a perception, about my instructor. So now I move to Organization. In the organization step I’m going to really analyze what is it that the instructor is doing in this stage, and then I’m going to put it in brain, compare it to my past experiences.

Now how do we organize this information in our brain? In our readings it talked a lot about things like proximity, similarity, differences. We kind of have ways we just organize things in general. I really like the readings and how they talk about that we when we one of the easiest ways for us to perceive and organize is by looking at that idea of proximity. If two people are close together we kind of just make that interpretation or assumption that they must be together in some sort of way, they know each other, we just make that assumption automatically. So like the idea of proximity, we organize they’re close together.

That’s the organization. They must be together. That’s our interpretation. So back to my example of being in the classroom, I’m going to more analyze the behaviors of what they’re doing outside of the proximity, similarity, differences, so I’m going to just look at what is the instructor doing right now.


My instructor is writing something in red ink on the board, putting some exclamation points by it, talking in a very loud voice underlining the words he’s saying, waving his arms and really pointing to this word that he wrote on the board and I’m thinking to myself, “Okay, in past experiences that I’ve had. ..” I’m going to put all this through my own frame of reference. When someone is pointing at a word, underlining it on the board, putting exclamation points next to it, using a very loud tone of voice when describing this word, I think he’s trying to get a point across to us that he really wants us to know this word. This must be something really important for me.

So in my past experience is when somebody has an instructor has told me that something is really important it’s been because it’s something that we’re really going to be tested on, so I should probably pay attention to this.

That’s our interpretation. We’ve made that interpretation that based on my past experiences all these schemata that I put this through, what this and the behaviors that I’m seeing this instructor doing to this vocabulary term that he’s put on the board is very important I need to pay attention to it – It’s probably going to be on the test. And maybe he’s going to come out and say, “Hey, this is on the test.” and then you know like your perception is correct.


That’s a pretty easy example but if you think about in certain situations where maybe you don’t have a lot of experience with a certain stimuli, like if this was your first time ever taking a class and you hadn’t seen that before you know an instructor standing there really like pointing to a word and yelling and underlining, you would wonder like “Why are they doing this? Like, they really want me to see this word but but why?” You’re not going to have that frame of reference point to be able to know exactly why it is that they’re doing this, so keep that in mind our frame of reference for every one is a little bit different.

Like I said it is influenced by cultural perspectives, past experiences, upbringing, where we live makes a difference in our perceptions. That’s why it’s so easy to be wrong in our perceptions.

So that’s a brief overview of the Perception Process. I hope that helps simplify it a little bit for you!.

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