Our senses work together to help the brain develop a first impression of our daily world. An initial feeling about an object or person provides basic information that can trigger an immediate response, but the depth of information necessary to create an informed decision may be missing at first glance. Perception activities help us to understand how we feel about a situation and encourage deeper thought. Discussing what happens in an activity is energizing and brings learning to life.

Who Am I?

Learning more about how others view us makes it easier to know how we come across in social situations. Each participant in this activity writes down words and phrases that describe who he is. Then, on a new sheet of paper, he writes only his name at the top and pass this paper to the person next to them. Each person then writes a word or phrase that describes the person whose name is at the top of the paper. Keep passing the paper around until it returns to the person listed. Have everyone compare what they wrote about themselves to what was written by others. Discuss the similarities and differences people discovered.

Do You See What I See?

Everyone sees people through their own unique lens. Perception provides a way we can guide our behavior and the way we relate to others. Select pictures of different types of people, such as a teacher, child, housekeeper, man or older woman. Ask small groups to write a story about each person depicted in the photos. Bring the group together and have participants share their stories. Compare the different perceptions and discuss stereotypes and how first impressions can shape behavior and communication.

It’s Not Just Semantics

The words we use when communicating guide the way we get along with others. Miscommunication often stems from different opinions about the meaning of words. Divide participants into small groups and have them select a word to define such as tolerance, racism, parent, neighbor or inequity. Ask each participant to define the word selected by their group and then share their definition. Have groups discuss the similarities and differences and the implications when communicating with people they don’t know. Share some of the small group work with the larger group and repeat the discussion.

Take Your Best Guess

Sometimes a predetermined perception of an object can keep us from recognizing something different or unique. Gather 10 items such as a book, scarf, pen, stapler or watch. Describe each item without showing it to the group. Ask participants to identify the object based upon your description. Create a chart that illustrates all the guesses given by participants. Start a group discussion and ask participants to share how they felt about the activity, how communication affects perception and how this can be applied to everyday interaction with others.