Innovative Learning


Perception encompasses all processes associated with the recognition, transformation and organization of sensory information (see Carterette & Friedman, 1978). It is closely related to all higher-order cognitive functions (such as reasoning, concept formation, problem-solving, memory, etc.) as well as sensory-motor behavior.

A classic debate in our understanding of perception is the role of the stimulus versus experience. At one end of this dimension (as typified by the theory of Gibson) is the position that the stimulus array is primarily responsible for what and how we perceive. On the other hand, constructivist theories (such as Bruner) argue that all perception is influenced by our experience and expectations. Theories of attitude change and social learning tend to support the latter position. Gestalt theories emphasize the role of structure in the stimulus array, although this can be due to the stimulus or experience.

Attention is a fundamental component of perception that is often used to differentiate higher-order cognitive processes from those that are purely sensory. Some theories of memory, such as Paivio or Craik & Lockhart, distinguish different types or levels of processing based upon perceptual phenomena. Pattern recognition (e.g. Reed, 1973) is a well-studied aspect of perception as are illusions (e.g., Gregory & Gombrich, 1973).

Individual differences in abilities (e.g., Guilford) and cognitive styles have been shown to be important in perception.


Carterette, E. & Friedman, M. (1978). Handbook of Perception, Vols 1-10. New York: Academic Press.

Gibson, E. (1969). Principles of Perceptual Learning and Development. New York: Appleton.

Gregory, R. & Gombrich, E. (1967) Illusion in Nature and Art. London: Duckworth.

Reed, S. (1973). Psychological Processes in Pattern Recognition. New York: Academic Press.