This article explains the meaning of perception, how the perception grows, the differences between perception and sensation, its significance in education, etc.

The Meaning of Perception

A perception is an act of giving meaning to sensory experiences. It indicates the active state of mind. Sensation gives mere awareness of an object and nothing more than that. Also, it is an act of knowing about the object we see, hear, and touch. The brain on receiving sensation of the stimulus becomes conscious and active. It tries to give meaning to the new sensation on the basis of accumulated knowledge and experience of the past. The meaning or message derived out of the given sensory experience is the knowing state of mind. Thus perception may be said as a meaningful sensation or sensation with meaning.

To take an example, different types of students while attending to the teacher in the class-room hear a sound outside. Immediately the sound stimulus gives the meaning that it is the sound of the college bell indicating that the class is over. They are to move to the other room for the next class that starts from the next moment. Thus, all these are the knowledge or perceptual experiences derived out of the sensory stimulation of the bell.

Perception is, therefore, a complex mental activity that involves a series of mental function in giving meaning to sensation. They include assimilation, discrimination, association, objectification, and unification of knowledge. On the accomplishment of these activities, only our mind can derive the meaning of the given object.


Sensation and perception as sense-experience cannot be conceived separately. For the convenience of our discussion and understanding only, they have been treated separately. Experience of sensation immediately takes the form of perception in mind. The sensation is the raw material and perception is the product derived out of it. As such it would be more appropriate to call such experience as sense-perception. The adults use to get sense-perception rather than getting sensation and perception separately. Our mind has the receptive capacity of past image, experience, and also learning. On the basis of them, every sensory experience and learning of the moment is immediately interpreted to derive perception. Their separate entity and experiences are not distinguishable. Thus, the sensation may remain a specific experience devoid of meaning only for the newborn baby. He fails to give meaning to his sensory experience received.

Owing to the influence of the past experience of individual mind sense-perception cannot be described completely as an objective experience. There is the influence of subjectivity in it, so far as past knowledge and experience of individuals are concerned. The quality and quantity of knowledge acquired, being strictly individual, sense-perception is liable to be subjective in its nature and experience.

Difference between Sensation and Perception:

Sensation and perception carry little difference to an adult. Although psychologically they have the characteristic differences for consideration, so far as their meaning and nature of experiences are concerned. The following are the basic points of their differences.

  1. The sensation is a simple sensory experience whereas perception is a complex mental process.
  2. The sensation is presentative, whereas perception is a presentative-representative process.
  3. Also, the sensation is a bare awareness of its quality. Perception can make us the meaning of the object.
  4. The sensation is devoid of knowledge. Perception gives knowledge of the object.
  5. Experience of sensation is uncertain and hypothetical to which perception makes it a reality.
  6. Sensation indicates an inactive state, but perception is the active state of mind.
  7. Sensation has no influence on past knowledge and experience, whereas the perception grows out of them.
  8. The sensation is objective, but perception is not wholly an objective experience.

How does Perception grow?

Perception is a distinctly mental function that involves the act of giving meaning to a meaningless sensory experience. On analysis of such function find that there are assimilation-discrimination, association, objectification, and also unification that go to form perception. Thus, the nature of these functions that involve in perceptions are as follows.


Assimilation is a comparison with similar objects and discrimination is a comparison with dissimilar objects. On the basis of such comparison meaning of the new experience is determined. To take an example, to-day I feel hot in comparison with yesterday’s temperature.


An individual derives meaning and experience of the given object in association with the similar experience of the past. If I see fire, the agony of burning sensation comes to my mind.


Every sensory experience gives meaning on the basis of familiarity of certain objects, persons, or situations experienced in the past. Owing to such objectification knowledge of sugar and salt comes to my mind.


Knowledge of anything comes to our mind as a unification of its parts involved. On such unification of the parts of the body, we can perceive whether a person is male or female. Gestalt psychologists give importance to this perceptual factor of mind.

Characteristics of Child’s Perception:

The perceptual ability of the child is by nature limited that needs to be carefully observed. Therefore, he should not be judged in terms of the perception ability of an adult. Some specific nature and characteristics of a child’s perception are:

  1. A child’s perception remains simple that lacks in analytical ability. We cannot expect any depth of his knowledge on anything.
  2. He cannot make a detailed perception of things at first sight. Therefore, there is a need for repetition of sense impressions to grow perception.
  3. A child’s perception depends upon the stimulating power of the object. Inadequate and less stimulating object fails to give him an adequate perception of things.
  4. He needs mental readiness to make new perceptions. Without motivation, the child may fail to make a perception of the given stimulus.
  5. Also, his perception of time and space is by nature inadequate. It is difficult for him to tell time and perceive the distance.
  6. A child’s perception depends upon his intellectual standard. Lower mental ability is a drawback to make adequate perception.

How to Train Sense-Perception

Meaning of Sense-training

In view of intellectual development and educational achievement of the child training of the senses has been considered essential. Senses are being the gateways of knowledge; they need to be trained for their efficiency, accuracy, and precision. Training in sense perception of course does not mean helping a person to see and hear who could not do so. It is not aimed at removing the congenital defects from which one may have suffered.

“Sense-training is a training of the mind, of its ability to discriminate and interpret whatever the sense organs perceive.” It is an act of sharpening the mind and intellect in its functions involved in the perception of knowledge of the external world. The aim of sense training is to enable children to discriminate between different stimuli presented and also to derive the accuracy and precision of their meaning.

So, training of the sense-perception virtually means improving, the process of our mental activity for sharpening the mind and intellect.

Need of sense-training:

The receptor organs of the newborn child are immature and incapable of receiving accurate knowledge of reality. Accumulated knowledge and experience of the past are quite limited and inadequate. He is often liable to commit an illusion. Fantastic imagination preoccupies his mind. Due to the inability of fixation of mind and its nature of instability, he is incapable of paying voluntary attention to anything. The external situation rather than the internal quality of the object easily attracts him.

Owing to these psycho-physical limitations the child couldn’t make sense-perception of the environment from a proper perspective. His knowledge and perception remain inadequate, inaccurate, and illusory. This may have an adverse effect on the later intellectual growth of his thought, reasoning, judgment, and problem-solving ability. Scientific training of the senses may only increase efficiency to these mental abilities. The creative potential of the child may find expression through this training of the senses.

How is Sense-training given?

The child does not have the mental readiness to undergo formal education in school. Educational methods to be adopted for training of the senses should, therefore, be spontaneous, active, and playful. Self-learning through self-activity is the principle to be adopted. Play is used as a means or medium of this education. The great educators like Froebel and Montessori had designed their scientific method of education based on the principle of play.

Friedrich Froebel was the first to have given the concept of training of the senses in his Kindergarten school (A pre-primary School) through aids and apparatus. He called them ‘gifts’ and ‘occupations’. The ‘gifs’ consisted of the woolen balls, square blocks of wood with different shapes, sizes, and colors. They were arranged in order of their difficulty for the different age groups. Their objective was to give visual and actual knowledge of the objects. He called some of the activities as ‘occupations’ because children used to learn the experience of work through them. They included paper folding, clay modeling, basket making, gardening, etc.

Dr. Maria Montessori had designed her method of sense training similar to the line of Froebel. The playthings and materials she used were called ‘didactic apparatus’ which meant self-guiding and self-dictating apparatus. They consisted of the wooden blocks of different sizes, shapes and colors, small boxes, tables, and some other play materials.

Her method of sense training was divided into three aspects:

  1. Sensory training
  2. Motor training and
  3. Language and number training.

Sensory training included visual, auditory, and tactual senses through the didactic apparatus. Visual senses were trained through distinguishing colors of different shades. Auditory senses were trained through discrimination of sound stimulus. Tactual senses were trained through discriminating objects, hard and soft, rough and smooth, hot and cold, light and heavy. Motor training included activities like sitting, standing, walking, and holding of objects in hand. Language and number training included the formation of sensory images on letters and numbers through repetition.

Montessori had designed training of children in some of their days to day household activities. They included washing of hands and feet, combing hair, wearing of dress, and keeping things in order. She called her school a ‘house of childhood’ in order to bring children home nearer to school.

Apperception, Its Educative Significance:

In order to make a new perception of the given stimulus man usually takes the help of the old experiences already acquired. A new perception is made incorporating the past into the present experience and by making necessary modifications of them. So, perception depends upon apperception that involves the process of assimilation, discrimination, and the association between the old and the new experiences. The mental process of combining and co-relating the new and old experiences for the emergence of a new meaning may be known as perception.

It may be noted that the sensory experience of the external object plays a major role in perception. On the other hand, the accumulated experiences of the past play a major role in apperception. Apperception may, therefore, be possible even in the absence of the given sensory experience. It can build up the mental life of a person when direct sense-experience is not present.

Apperception plays a major role and aims of education. The teacher is supposed to know how to make use of the apperceptive experiences of the students in the presentation of a new lesson or new content of knowledge. Children can grasp a new idea better when it is effectively co-related with previous experiences. For this purpose, he should make use of instances and references to the previous lesson with a view to simplifying the difficult concept in mind. Also, he should adopt the principle of teaching from simple to complex, known to unknown, general to specific. The five Harbartian steps of the lesson plan involve this concept of apperception. These steps of a lesson plan are preparation, presentation, generalization, assimilation, and application.

False Perception: Illusion and Hallucination:

Owing to various psycho-physical reasons and their shortcomings perceptual meaning drawn by individuals out of the given stimulus may not always be correct and appropriate. Very often there is the liability of committing mistakes in making the perception of reality. Such experiences are known as false perceptions. It may take the form of illusion and hallucination.


It may be described as a wrong interpretation of meaning out of the given sensory experience. According to Woodworth, “An illusion consists in responding to a sensory stimulus by perceiving something that is not really there.” Here the stimulus presented is wrongly interpreted and it’s meaning drawn by an individual. For example, a rope at night lying on the roadside is wrongly perceived as a snake. A sandy desert is wrongly perceived as a sea of water by the thirsty traveler. The practical experience of the illusion common to people may be cited below.

The illusion is very common to all people. It may be caused when the object is present before our senses and even when the brain is in the normal state of function. In our day to day life, we very often use to commit such mistakes. The shadow at night may appear to be a ghost to a little child. The adolescents may think of their life as the bed of roses. Such illusions are caused due to immaturity of knowledge, too much indulgence in imagination, old habits, and emotional disturbances in the mind of individuals.


Hallucination is a false perception experienced in rare situations. It may be described as subjective perception where there is no basis for an external stimulus. It is the subject or the individual and not the object or its stimulus responsible for this type of experience. We perceive something wrong even when the object is not present before the senses. In the state of hallucination, the cerebral function remains abnormal. To take an example, a man suffering from high fever speaks something irrelevant out of the hallucination. One sitting all alone in his room perceives wrongly that someone comes and talks to him. But, such false perception is an uncommon experience for a man.

Some of the distinguishing points between illusion and hallucination may be noted below.

It is an objective experience.It is a subjective experience.
Also, it may be had even in the normal state of mind.It may be had in an abnormal state of mind.
The object of its experience remains present before the sense.The object of its experience remains absent from the situation.
The illusion is common to all people.Hallucination is uncommon to people.
It may have far-reaching effects on man’s life.Also, it does not have far-reaching effects on life.

Illusion and the child

The illusion may have a special influence on the mental life of the child. His knowledge and perception of reality by nature remain immature and limited. As such, he cannot make correct and accurate perceptions of things and experiences around him. Moreover, he lives in a world of imagination and fantasy that gives him joy and delight. Very often fantasy pre-occupies his mind and behavior.

Such a state may have its favorable and unfavorable effect on the child. His play is an act of make-believe that helps in his constructive psycho-physical development. His fantastic illusion may lead to unusual fear, anxiety, and an unhealthy emotional state that may cause more psychological harm. It may result in misunderstanding and false perception of reality. Owing to this reason Montessori had discouraged storytelling to children

Even young adolescents are often liable to the illusion of their future life and thought. They dream of their colorful life which is in fact incompatible with reality. Experience of the reality of life in the later stages may only make disillusionment of their fantasy.


Higher Secondary Education for HS 1st Year

By: Jatin Borua

Note: There are some changes in the Length and Text of the Article.

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