The only world that truly exists for any of us is the one inside our brains. Each of us experiences the world in our own special way. Our world is made up of our experiences and perceptions. The way that every individual perceives their world is different from the way any other individual perceives theirs. The way that we perceive our world is different than the way anyone else perceives their world, yet we all live in the same world. What makes our world different are our perceptions, not the world itself. This research will explore two different theories on how we perceive our world. It will discuss the classical theory of perception and the active theory of perception in order to gain a better understanding of how our perceptions affect our world view.
Our own virtual reality exists because the brain does not directly experience a physical environment. Instead it sees information about the environment in the form of physical energy (Berliner and Cohen, pp. 44). Cells in the brain communicate through the release of neurochemicals and the brain begins the process of analyzing the data that it receives. Receptor cells gather and translate the information from the environment into a neurochemical language that the brain can understand (Berliner and Cohen, pp. 44).
The process of perception begins with the object or stimulus, such as light, sound, or the feel of a certain object. The stimulus stimulates the body's sensory system. This signal is sent to the brain and the brain attempts to reconstruct a mental representation of the stimulus. This mental reconstruction is what we refer to as the perception of the object or stimulus. The brain continues to further process this mental image by organizing it, interpreting it, and sometimes transforming it into a form that is quite different from the real physical world from which the perception was formed.
Perception is an amazing human ability. It is a complex topic. Our perceptions have several traits that make them unique. One of them is constancy. Constancy can refer to an object's size, shape, color, or orientation Constancy, in terms of size, means that a person or object appears to be approximately the same size regardless of their distance from the viewer, even though the image on the retina becomes larger and smaller. Shape constancy refers to the perception that the shape of an object remains the same, despite being viewed from different perspectives. This too is a difficult concept to understand because the image on the retina changes. Our perception of motion is also a complex mechanism. We perceive motion through contextual clues from the environment and from specific visual receptor cells that are able to detect different types of movement. For instance, we have the ability to distinguish the object from the background in a painting. We do this through the ability to group stimuli and to distinguish that which is not in the same group. We also have depth perception that allows us to account for varying distances of objects. We can see illusions and perceive them to be something that is not even close to reality.
Classical Theory of Perception
There are many different theories of perception. The classical theory of perception is associated with Hermann von Helmholtz. The classical theory holds that perception results from a process of unconscious inference about the stimulus being received. It is most likely that these inferences are formed through past learning experience. This occurs as an unconscious effort on people's part. Conde and Thalmann (p. 457) use these basic theories to examine how information is processed in a virtual world.
The processing of information in a virtual world limits the classical theory of perception because the world inside the computer can be very real to the user, but they can be unlike anything else in their real world. Therefore, it is difficult to say that the classical theory of perception holds true because the person does not always have a frame of reference from the real world to use to interpret the virtual world. If the classical theory a perception were the dominant theory, then it fails to explain how a person forms their perception of something that they have never seen in the real world. The classical theory of perception fits for objects and experiences that are a regular part of our world. The classical theory is inadequate to explain how we can perceive a virtual world as if it were real.
Another disadvantage to classical theory a perception is that, if it holds true, then it fails to explain how we can form perceptions of about things that we have never experienced in the world. If we are simply the sum of our past, then one has to wonder how we process perceptions of things that we've never experienced. The classical theory holds that our past experience is a reference point, and that we simply categorize new experience in too familiar categories. However, the classical theory also fails to explain how babies can have certain tacit knowledge of that is apparently present since birth. For instance, was a baby reaches a certain stage of development, they will have an automatic fear of fire, even if they have never been burned by the fire or experienced higher in the past. Like other higher order animals, humans seem to be born with a certain set of knowledge that is not related to their past experiences at this point in their life.
The classical theory of perception holds that we did not actively seek experiences in our lives and that we simply interpret the experiences that we do have in relationship to our frame of reference that is based on our past experiences. However, this theory has several disadvantages in its inability to explain concepts such as instinctual behaviors or experiences that are completely new to us in that we have never experienced in the past. The classical theory does have a key advantage when it comes to categorizing information that clearly fits into one of our established patterns. For instance, if we see a new breed of dog that we have never seen in the past, will quickly be able to determine that it goes in the category of some type of dog. We are able to generalize a specific dog into the larger category of "dog."
When Active Perception
The classical model a perception sees the human has a recipient of the stimulus from their environment. It views perception as a relatively automatic process where the recipient of the information unconsciously performs actions based on that information without conscious effort from the perceiver. The active perception model dictates that the problem is not necessarily one of signal processing, but of the control of the data acquisition processes. This theory contends that the human not only receives information from the five senses, but that they actively seek information from their environment.
The active view of perception states that perception is a two phase process. The first phase of the process is the establishment of some form of uncertainty by the environment. This is considered to be an active process by the perceiver. Second phase involves the removal of that uncertainty through a deliberate process. Perception is considered to be in an active process for the perceiver (Hurley, pp. 4). This diversion from the classical view a perception that considers the perceiver to be simply a receiver of the information, not a participant in the direct acquisition of the sensory experiences.
Hurley (p.11) suggests that perception is hierarchal. His theory suggests that perception is the primary function and that action is subordinate into derivative of perception. This had led to the academic neglect of the study of acts and as a result of perception, and created the academic opinion that the study a perception was the more important of the two functions. In the classical view of perception, the mind passively receives sensory input from its environment. The mind then tries to marry the products of cognition to a certain action. This view of the subordinate role of action considers action to be slave and perception, the master. The classical view considers a perception into action to be two separate processes that are separate but unequal (Hurley, p.11).
This results in a view that that has a vertically modular structure.
Thus far, our discussion of perception has centered on the formation of our world view. However, it is impossible to engage in a discussion of perception without touching on the subject of motivation. The active view of perception considers action to be subordinate to perception. However, recent research indicates that perception is not as passive as was Once believed. Recent research indicates the perception can be influenced by one's motivation. This approach holds that all behavior is goal oriented. Certain goals are sought that are in alignment with one's motivation.