Perception - How it Works ??

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"Do not try to build your life on ethics, morality or value. Bring clarity of perception into your life. Learn to see everything the way it is", says Sadhguru.


Amongst these words we have a word called "perception". What is this "perception " all about ? Today let me throw some light into this word and let us try to gather its meaning.


When we talk about perception in science , its the sensory perception that is the understanding that we develop after we see, smell, touch, taste or hear something.When we sense something, then the impulses are sent to our brain and perception is so forth built in our mind. Simple, a stimulus is taken from environment through the senses, this information taken is used to interact with the environment. sensory perception is much beyond sensation. perception happens when sensation end, when we try to interpret information out of what we have sensed.


Lets understand this sensory perception with some illustrations :

  • We understand what food is being cooked merely by the aroma of it.
  • We can understand that our child is having fever merely by placing our hands on its forehead.
  • We can perceive a car coming behind us merely by the sound of its wheels and become alert.
  • We can understand that our child is sad just by looking at his face.


What is perception in psychology ?

Perception in psychology is say beyond sensory perception. It is a more deeper concept. Perception is all about the beliefs that we hold, the understanding that we develop, the view point that we have, the ideas the strikes us, experience that we have had, the thought process that is in our mind towards people or the situation. this is simple right.


Is Perception equal to reality ??

Now here, it is tricky. Each person has his own perception, and mostly likely perceptions do not match as mirror images even if two people are BFFs or twins or whatsoever. But reality or facts or truth can be only one. Perceptions are the assumptions, presumption that we make about a real thing. So

usually perceptions are not reality but our way of looking at the big picture. It is here important to know that this perception, if it falls somewhere in the spectrum of reality then our life is definitely sorted. I know you are asking "what perception is no where reality ?" keep reading, i am coming to it shortly.


What are the things that contribute to form a perception ??

Apart from the sensory inputs that we saw earlier there are few things that are very important to have a perception. They are

  • Our inherent temperament
  • genetic influences
  • our upbringing
  • values and ethics that we learned and hold strongly
  • our life experiences ( both good and bitter ones)


All these things help us form the core beliefs. And also work to form a our filtered view to perceive things. We could be near a reality, or somewhere near or far off from reality. Have you ever used a selfie filter, some filters are such that it changes our features and complexion, we cant even identify our own self ? isnt it ??


Is perception a projection ??

We see things as we are, not as it is. If we believe something to be true, we see examples of it in our own world. That is, we have a reference frame, to confirm our beliefs and thoughts as reality, we view the world outside in light of this reference frame. Time to bring in some examples of real life :

  • A person who has seen broken relationships in his family, will always fear a failure in his relationships.
  • If a person has a fallout with a colleague and you are still upset about it then you may perceive his future behaviour as hostile, in fact this might not be true at all.
  • Many times we assume if i can do it, he/she can do it as well. " If i can get up at 6.00 am she can also do it, whats the big deal ? "
  • Sometimes we feel someone's reaction to a situation out of proportion. " oh god, what is there to cry after all its not a big problem"


Are Perceptions Unconscious ?

Yes perception is an unconscious mental processes that happen automatically.But sometimes it becomes important to do a ground check and be a little mindful. When we have ours, others also has theirs, this is something we always need to keep in mind. It is sometimes becomes important to review your own in the light of reality.


What if perceptions are such that they are far away from reality ?

Yes sometimes what happens is our perceptions are based on beliefs that are highly inflated and distorted. This may be misleading and totally make us dysfunctional. These are called cognitive distortions. When we have such thought process we tend to misinterpret things.


Some example of distortions are :

  1. Sometimes we only filter and see only the negative things happening with us and around us this is called mental filtering .
  2. When we indulging in blaming ourselves for every little thing happening, we take it personally, even when this might not be true. this is called personalisation.
  3. We may also have the tendency of putting blame on others and not accept our mistakes, this is called Blaming.
  4. We would have accidentally kept the gas on, and have found that out and corrected it and also set a reminder to check it but we imagine a worst scenario " what if the entire house is burnt" , this is called catastrophizing.
  5. Sometimes a little is said and we may blow it up. this is called magnifying.
  6. We also indulge in labelling people, with one or two experience, we all do it right ??


Perceptions are important and cant imagine the world function without it. Life would be so boring, robotic and monotonous like food without the dash of spices. Varied perceptions bring in creativity, new inventions and ideas. So many different styles of fine arts, music, architecture, designer brands, food recipes etc etc and the list is endless, are only because of the fact that each person on this earth has his unique way to think, to act, to react, to enact, to discover, to speak, to create, ...


How can we avoid a distorted perception ??

But sometimes we need to understand things in right light we need to check or question ourselves that whether our understanding of person or a statement or situation is correct ? It helps us to decode thing more effectively. This is called as perception checking.


  • First step we need to describe, run through the event in your mind, understand exactly what happened
  • Second step, to interpret, for example what could be the two or more possible interpretations for a person to behave like this.
  • Third Step, to clarify, if you know the person very well, then you can go to him and ask him politely about his behaviour, may be that you will understand his stand.


To sum up things we could say that, perception checking is a very good quality and definitely adds value to your personality. It makes working in a group or team easier. When different minds work together it leads to creative collaboration . Our relationships also thrive better as we don't jump into conclusions.Obviously there are lesser conflicts. We also develop the quality of Active listening, because we listen and validate others opinion. It helps us to extend our map to that of the territory.

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Working as Clinical psychologist A Mental Health Consultant on many start up mental health portals. An Expert Panelist in Parentune i conduct live workshop thereby answer parents concerns
A mental wellness therapist/ counsellor/ psychologist. I believe in maintaining healthy mind enriched with healthy postive thoughts.