AskDefine | Define perceive

Dictionary Definition



1 to become aware of through the senses; "I could perceive the ship coming over the horizon" [syn: comprehend]
2 become conscious of; "She finally perceived the futility of her protest"

User Contributed Dictionary



percevoir, perceveir, percipio, perceptum; per- + capio to take, receive.



  1. To see, to be aware of, to understand.


to understand

Related terms


Extensive Definition

In psychology and the cognitive sciences, perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of sensory information. It is a task far more complex than was imagined in the 1950s and 1960s, when it was proclaimed that building perceiving machines would take about a decade, but, needless to say, that is still very far from reality. The word perception comes from the Latin perception, percepio, , meaning "receiving, collecting, action of taking possession, apprehension with the mind or senses."
There are two basic theories of perception: Passive Perception (PP) and Active Perception (PA). The passive perception (conceived by René Descartes) is addressed in this article and could be surmised as the following sequence of events: surrounding → input (senses) → processing (brain) → output (re-action). Although still supported by mainstream philosophers, psychologists and neurologists, this theory is nowadays losing momentum. The theory of active perception has emerged from extensive research of sensory illusions, most notably the works of Professor Emeritus Richard L. Gregory. This theory is increasingly gaining experimental support and could be surmised as dynamic relationship between “description” (in the brain) ↔ senses ↔ surrounding.
Perception is one of the oldest fields in psychology. The oldest quantitative law in psychology is the Weber-Fechner law, which quantifies the relationship between the intensity of physical stimuli and their perceptual effects. It was the study of perception that gave rise to the Gestalt school of psychology, with its emphasis on holistic approach.

Perception and reality

In the case of visual perception, some people can actually see the percept shift in their mind's eye. Others who are not picture thinkers, may not necessarily perceive the 'shape-shifting' as their world changes. The 'esemplastic' nature has been shown by experiment: an ambiguous image has multiple interpretations on the perceptual level.
Just as one object can give rise to multiple percepts, so an object may fail to give rise to any percept at all: if the percept has no grounding in a person's experience, the person may literally not perceive it.
Perception alters what humans see, into a diluted version of reality, which ultimately corrupts the way humans perceive the truth. When people view something with a preconceived idea about it, they tend to take those preconceived ideas and see them whether or not they are there. This problem stems from the fact that humans are unable to understand new information, without the inherent bias of their previous knowledge. The extent of a person’s knowledge creates their reality as much as the truth, because the human mind can only contemplate that which it has been exposed to. When objects are viewed without understanding, the mind will try to reach for something that it already recognizes, in order to process what it is viewing. That which most closely relates to the unfamiliar from our past experiences, makes up what we see when we look at things that we don’t comprehend.
This confusing ambiguity of perception is exploited in human technologies such as camouflage, and also in biological mimicry, for example by Peacock butterflies, whose wings bear eye markings that birds respond to as though they were the eyes of a dangerous predator. Perceptual ambiguity is not restricted to vision. For example, recent touch perception research (Robles-De-La-Torre & Hayward 2001) found that kinesthesia-based haptic perception strongly relies on the forces experienced during touch. This makes it possible to produce illusory touch percepts (see also the MIT Technology Review article The Cutting Edge of Haptics).
Cognitive theories of perception assume there is a poverty of stimulus. This (with reference to perception) is the claim that sensations are, by themselves, unable to provide a unique description of the world. Sensations require 'enriching', which is the role of the mental model. A different type of theory is the perceptual ecology approach of James J. Gibson. Gibson rejected the assumption of a poverty of stimulus by rejecting the notion that perception is based in sensations. Instead, he investigated what information is actually presented to the perceptual systems. He (and the psychologists who work within this paradigm) detailed how the world could be specified to a mobile, exploring organism via the lawful projection of information about the world into energy arrays. Specification is a 1:1 mapping of some aspect of the world into a perceptual array; given such a mapping, no enrichment is required and perception is direct.


The ecological understanding of perception advanced from Gibson's early work is perception-in-action, the notion that perception is a requisite property of animate action, without perception action would not be guided and without action perception would be pointless. Animate actions require perceiving and moving together. In a sense, "perception and movement are two sides of the same coin, the coin is action." A mathematical theory of perception-in-action has been devised and investigated in many forms of controlled movement by many different species of organism, General Tau Theory. According to this theory, tau information, or time-to-goal information is the fundamental 'percept' in perception.-

Perception and action

We gather information about the world and interact with it through our actions. Perceptual information is critical for action. Perceptual deficits may lead to profound deficits in action.

References and further reading


External links

perceive in Arabic: إدراك حسي
perceive in Bulgarian: Възприятие
perceive in Czech: Vnímání
perceive in Danish: Perception
perceive in German: Wahrnehmung
perceive in Estonian: Taju
perceive in Spanish: Percepción
perceive in Esperanto: Percepto
perceive in Persian: ادراک
perceive in French: Perception
perceive in Armenian: Ըմբռնում
perceive in Croatian: Percepcija
perceive in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Perception
perceive in Italian: Percezione
perceive in Hebrew: תפיסה
perceive in Georgian: აღქმა
perceive in Lithuanian: Suvokimas
perceive in Dutch: Perceptie
perceive in Japanese: 知覚
perceive in Norwegian: Persepsjon
perceive in Polish: Spostrzeganie
perceive in Portuguese: Percepção
perceive in Quechua: Sut'i musyay
perceive in Russian: Восприятие
perceive in Simple English: Perception
perceive in Slovak: Zmyslové vnímanie
perceive in Serbian: Перцепција
perceive in Finnish: Havaitseminen
perceive in Swedish: Perception
perceive in Vietnamese: Tri giác
perceive in Turkish: Algı
perceive in Ukrainian: Пізнання
perceive in Urdu: آگاہی
perceive in Chinese: 知觉

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

appreciate, apprehend, ascertain, be acquainted with, be apprised of, be aware of, be cognizant of, be conscious of, be conversant with, be informed, be sensible of, behold, believe, catch on, catch sight of, clap eyes on, cognize, come alive, comprehend, conceive, conceptualize, conclude, consider, contemplate, decipher, deduce, deem, descry, detect, determine, dig, discern, discover, distinguish, divine, espy, experience, fathom, feel, feel deeply, figure out, gather, glimpse, grasp, have, have a sensation, have in sight, have information about, have knowledge of, hear, identify, infer, judge, ken, know, lay eyes on, look on, look upon, make out, mark, mind, note, notice, observe, penetrate, pick out, pick up, pierce, plumb, possess, prehend, realize, receive an impression, recognize, regard, remark, respond, respond to stimuli, savvy, see, see daylight, see into, see the light, see through, seize, sense, sight, signal, smell, spot, spy, take, take in, taste, think, touch, twig, understand, view, witness, wot, wot of
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