Example Of Literature Review On Effects On Perception
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Our senses provide us with raw data from the external world. The raw data that is fed by the sensory organs to our brain is devoid of form and meaning. It is our faculty of perception that attaches meaning to that data and allows us to process it. Without perception we will only have neurons firing in our brain and we will be clueless as to what we see, hear, taste and feel. We will see a random structure in front of us with the help of our senses and it is our perception that tells us that this structure for example a chair is called a chair, it is made of wood, its color is brown and it can be sat upon. We can then proceed to perform actions like sitting. Thus perception is the vital process by which we make sense of sensory information and then use that meaningful information for our use. This whole process allows us to function normally in the world and accomplish our tasks. If our perception is impaired we will become dysfunctional and life will almost come to a standstill. Scientifically, perception is a set of mental operations that organize the sensory information to make it meaningful. Perception provides the basis of thinking, learning and acting. The importance of perceptions in our lives is paramount and being a largely cognitive faculty it has interested psychologists immensely. Some of the greatest interest in perception has been regarding the influences on perception as perception has been identifies as a subjective phenomenon. The questions about the influences on perception that arise concern internal versus external influences. Over time research has established that internal and external influences both affect our perception and the major influences include our beliefs, motivations, emotions and our culture.
Beliefs are a part of our innate mental structures and processes and have a significant effect on our perception. Beliefs can also be called schemas and include the information we have stored through our experiences or through other’s experiences that have been narrated to us. Our beliefs are what we hold true and this affects our abilities and expectations as to what we experience and how we perceive it. For example if we believe in an omnipotent god we are likely to perceive events as being caused by some divine power or according to some preordained plan. Such a person is likely to perceive life as granted by god and the instances that happen as events that depict the will of the god. On the other hand if a person believes more in science and evolution he or she is likely to perceive events as having some scientific basis. Life to him or her will be a result of centuries and centuries of evolutionary processes and he is unlikely to perceive anything as having divine or supernatural driving force. This shows how the same phenomenon and events can be perceived differently by two people having different beliefs. So beliefs are a confirmed influence on our perception. There are categories of beliefs that have particular significance with regards to influencing our perceptions. Heuristics are one such category where we have certain rules of thumb which we apply on the information we have to make sense of it quickly and without much effort. Heuristics are used when the incoming information is difficult to organize and process so we rely on mental shortcuts to deal with the task of information processing. The use of heuristics allows us to extend our cognitive abilities and also work when are cognitive resources are depleted. The use of heuristics surely has its benefits but they do not always serve us in the right manner. Another important category of beliefs are our biases. Biases are certain irrational thought patterns and beliefs that are deeply ingrained in our minds. Biases are perceptual tilts where we are more sensitive towards certain stimuli or information. Biases cause certain information to weigh more heavily on our perception and this can lead us to deviate from absolute rationality. Biases can take numerous forms and can be either conscious or unconscious. Psychologists have made tremendous advances in increasing our knowledge about biases and perceptual inclinations. Biases are deep rooted and many a times unconsciously held so they can be hard to filter out. Thus beliefs in general are a very potent influence on our perception and the meaning we attach to the incoming information is largely colored by our preconceived notions.
Our motivations have an important influence on our actions, our capabilities and also on our perception. Motivation is the driving force that compels us towards a goal. Motivation provides us with a potential to do something. Different theorists have arrived at different understandings of motivation and have devised different models to explain this phenomenon but the basic classification can be done of fairly simple grounds. Firstly, motivations can arise out of our basic physiological needs for example hunger motivating us to seek food and tiredness motivating us to sleep. We can also be motivated by abstract goals that are still intrinsic for example the motivation to be respected or loved can drive us towards certain altruistic actions. Motivation can also arise for tangible external benefits like wealth and rank in an organization. When we are motivated to think or do something our perception can likely be affected. If a person is motivated to do something he might perceive the task as easy or might perceive his or her own capabilities in a certain way. The same person will probably perceive the task and his or her own capabilities differently in the situation when he or she is not motivated to do that task. Motivation can affect our perception on a deeper such as in the case of an experiment the hungry participants were more attuned to food related stimuli. Thus our specific motivations and their intensity affects what we see and pay attention to forming our unique perceptions.
Emotions are another important facet of our life that is intimately linked with our cognition. Our thoughts affect our emotions and our emotions can also affect our thoughts. Emotions are basically the value we place on external stimuli. When we see something an innate response is generated that tells us of the value of that stimulus. This helps us form an opinion as to whether or not we should approach or avoid the stimulus. This shows a very basic function of emotions but in reality emotions are very complex phenomenon which we use to relate with the world and in communication with others. Basically there are positive and negative emotions in line with the approach and avoidance dichotomy but further classifications have greatly increased the number of emotions identified. Emotions are a universal phenomenon and the expression of emotions is also a very interesting domain of study because of its universality and instinctiveness. Seven such basic universal emotions were identified by Dr. Paul Eckman. These emotions are happiness, disgust, surprise, sadness, fear, contempt and anger. These emotions also greatly color our perception. For example when a person is angry he is likely to interpret a greater number of stimuli and gestures as threatening and is likely to react with more anger. A happy person will perceive things as nonthreatening and hence a marked difference in perception is brought about by different emotions at the time that they are being felt. Beyond the basic universal emotions there are many variations in emotions and expressions that are influenced by the specific cultural context. So as emotions vary across cultures and geographical boundaries, perceptions also change making them a diverse subjective phenomenon.
Lastly there is the overarching influence of culture on our perceptions. Culture is a diverse phenomenon that includes the traditions, beliefs, practices and rules prevalent in our surroundings. Culture is one external influence that affects many of our inner constructs. Culture has a major influence on our beliefs. Our beliefs can vary depending on whether we live in a conservative or a liberal society or an individualistic or a collectivistic society or any such differentiation. And with the specific cultural influences our beliefs are likely to affect our perceptions in specific ways. For example in a conservative society, modesty will be considered an important virtue and this will affect the way we dress and behave. Someone from such a society is likely to perceive a skimpily clad woman from another culture as a morally wayward or misled individual. The same woman who is dressed in skimpy clothes is likely to view a woman of the conservative society as oppressed and narrow-minded. Another example will be of an individualistic culture where an individual’s opinion and achievements are perceived as more important while in a collectivistic culture the group is given precedence over the individual and an individual’s opinion or success is perceived as less important. Furthermore, as different cultures prioritize different things, people are also likely to be motivated differently. And motivations have an evident effect on perceptions so culture influences perceptions through motivations as well. Individuals in a collectivistic society are likely to strive for the success of their group because they perceive group’s success as more important than an individual’s. This situation is likely to be reversed in an individualistic culture where individuals are motivated to strive for personal goals as individual success is perceived as more worthwhile. With regards to emotions there are interesting interactions between culture and the feeling and expression of emotions. In some cultures people are generally more emotionally perceptive and expressive and emotions are clearly communicated as a norm. In other cultures suppressing emotions and maintaining composure will be perceived as more appropriate. So culture affects the way emotions are expressed and with what intensity. The emotional experiences of an individual or society will unavoidably affect the perceptions. Open communication about emotions will affect the perception of stimuli and the communication of this perception across individuals. In emotion suppressing cultures alternate means of communicating perceptions will be in place. This shows how culture directly and indirectly affects our perception. Culture becomes a part of lives and a major influence from a very young age as child rearing practices, our beliefs, education, personalities and norms are all dictated by the culture. Culture shapes who we are and the way we perceive the world around us.
Culture has a major influence in particular on how we perceive people. Two important theories in this regard are the attribution theory and the social comparison theory. The first, attribution theory gives us information as to how we assign responsibility of actions to people. This theory postulates that when we find someone in a bad situation we attribute the failure or difficulty to the person as being his or her fault. We see the difficulty as a fair or at least understandable consequence of the person’s actions or strategy. But when we are ourselves in a difficult situation we blame it on external factors. We will blame other people or the circumstances or anything other than ourselves like the weather or fate. This tendency is not uniform but is strongly influenced by the culture by means of age, gender, race and social class. The other theory is the social comparison theory which states that we derive our worth by comparing ourselves to others. This comparison can be both ways; with people we believe as superior to us and with people we perceive as inferior to us. In situations when we want to progress and grow we look up to people who we perceive as better than us and we aspire to their standards and derive motivation out of this social comparison. On the other hand of we fail in some way or are disadvantaged we look to people inferior to us to increase and maintain our self-worth. This theory as well links up with cultural variables and provides useful functions to humans and helps with the understanding of human nature and norms.
This essay had sought to answer important questions about perception. First was the question of what perception is and what function it performs. Perception is a process which organizes the sensory information and imparts meaning to it. Further on was the question of what influences perception and whether these influences are internal or external. Perception is influenced by various internal and external factors. These factors include beliefs, emotions, motivations, and culture. Beliefs are the inherent ideas and standards we hold and they dictate how we perceive what we experience. Emotions are the value placed on external stimuli by our internal systems and beliefs. Emotions are spontaneous and irrepressible. Our emotions greatly influence the way we feel at a particular instant and the way we perceive things. Motivation is the driving force in our life that provides us with the reason and energy to pursue something. Our motivational states affect our energy levels and our perception that then influences our actions. Culture is the factor whose influence is the most diverse and overarching it influences our perceptions directly and indirectly and is fundamental to our understanding of our perceptions. Culture influences most areas of our lives and that is why it has such a strong influence on our perceptions. It affects our beliefs, emotions, motivation as well as our personalities and social interactions. All these in turn influence our perceptions and determine how we view the world. From this discussion several areas of inquiry emerge. Biases are phenomena that have a huge bearing on our behavior and thinking and they certainly demand further attention. Various types and functions of biases have been identified by research but they still provide immense room for investigation and research. This is because they are at times unconscious and unconsciously observed without the biased person even knowing about them. Furthermore the influences of culture can be further explored to identify further means through which the influence is imparted. For example how practices of child rearing influence the perception of the child and develop through their life into their adulthood. Perceptions are a rich and inexhaustible area of study and the questions to be answered are still innumerable.
Aronson, E., Wilson, T. D., & Akert, R. M. (2009). Social Cognition: How We Think about the Social World. In E. Aronson, T. D. Wilson, & R. M. Akert, Social Psychology (pp. 37-43). Pearson Education.
Boundless. (2014, 10 04). Cultural Influences on Perception. Retrieved 04 13, 2015, from Boundless Psychology: https://www.boundless.com/psychology/textbooks/boundless-psychology-textbook/sensation-and-perception-5/advanced-topics-in-perception-40/cultural-influences-on-perception-174-12709/
Foreman, J. (2003, 08 05). The 43 Facial Muscles That Reveal Even the Most Fleeting Emotions: A Conversation with Paul Ekman . Retrieved 04 13, 2015, from New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2003/08/05/health/conversation-with-paul-ekman-43-facial-muscles-that-reveal-even-most-fleeting.html
Wade, C., & Tavris, C. (2011). Emotions, stress and health. In C. Wade, & C. Tavris, Psychology (pp. 390-420). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Wade, C., & Tavris, C. (2011). Sensation and Perception. In C. Wade, & C. Tavris, Psychology (pp. 213-215). New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
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