The Definition of Perceptual Differences

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Perception is the way in which people gather information about the world and the degree to which information is gathered. People gather information, or perceive, through one or more of the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste. While two people can experience the same stimulus through the senses, they may perceive the information differently. Perceptual differences are the differences in ways people process information gathered from the senses.

1 Physiology

Scientists can measure the physiology or perception of human experience through creatively designed tests. For example, vision tests can isolate whether a person sees color by asking people to respond to cards that are different. If the cards shown have identical tonal values, and a person cannot perceive color, they will not respond to any of the cards, even if they are different colors. Similar tests can isolate and measure perception through each of the five senses.

2 Point of View

Point of view describes many variables that can affect differences in perception. Factors that affect perception include: personality, cognitive styles, gender, occupation, values, attitudes and religious beliefs. Each of these items shapes perceptual points of view. For example, if a person holds a religious faith, the beliefs of the faith are likely to shape perception, so that it is consistent with his own faith.

3 Psychology

A person's psychology, or current state of mind, is one of the factors that determines point of view. For example, a person who is afraid is more likely to wrongly perceive information gathered through her senses as being threatening; a person who is confident is more likely to perceive the same set of information as being safe. Their physiological senses don't change with their frame of mind; their frame of mind affects how they synthesize information.

4 Context

Context accounts for differences in perception. Most people can relate to this common way that context affects perception: you see a familiar face at a local restaurant but cannot remember why the person looks so familiar. It may take a few minutes, or longer, before you realize it is the face of someone who works at a local grocery store, for example. You may have seen him a few times a month for several years, but you're slow to recognize him only because you're not accustomed to the new context.

John Willis founded a publishing company in 1993, co-writing and publishing guidebooks in Portland, OR. His articles have appeared in national publications, including the "Wall Street Journal." With expertise in marketing, publishing, advertising and public relations, John has founded four writing-related ventures. He studied economics, art and writing at Portland State University and the Pacific Northwest College of Art.