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What Are Perception Exercises?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Perception exercises are activities that test perception and highlight differences in the way people perceive things. They can often be used in psychology research and education to gather helpful information about how people interpret sensory information. Visual perception is commonly the topic of interest in such activities, although it is possible to explore other senses as well. Numerous examples can be found online for people interested in experimenting or developing group perception activities.

In perception exercises, participants are asked to respond to information. They may do something like counting the number of instances of a letter in a square or describing an image that could be interpreted in several different ways. Such activities can involve the use of optical illusions and other tricks to show how the eye, and the brain, can be fooled. The leader may have people respond publicly as a group, or could ask them to privately note their perceptions.

When all the members of the group have provided feedback, the leader of the perception exercises can talk about what they really saw, and why people returned varied responses. In the example of letters in a sentence, for example, it’s common for people to skip over some words, or to miss letters because they are not at the beginning or end of a word. Priming can also play a role; if, for example, people are asked to look for a specific letter and then shown the sentence, they may respond differently than if they see the sentence first and then are asked to count the instances of a given letter.

Researchers can use perception exercises to compare and contrast the way people process information. This can provide important clues into the cognitive processes behind perception. If people look at a grid and see different numbers of squares, it appears that something more complex than simple visual stimulus is occurring. Exercises can also show how changes like color, font, and layout can make information easier or harder to perceive accurately.

In classroom environments, teachers can use perception exercises to illustrate psychological concepts for students. They can also be useful for team building and education not just in class, but also in organizational settings. People preparing to work together on a project could complete some perception exercises to have a better understanding of how people can interpret the same stimulus differently.

Exercises to improve perceptual abilities are also sometimes known as perception exercises. In these activities, people review stimuli to sharpen sensory acuity. For example, people might use eye exercises to promote eye health and develop skills like being able to distinguish between very similar colors.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By irontoenail — On Aug 15, 2014

@croydon - Perception in general can be improved with practice. I've had people tell me they used to play memory games where they would have to look at a scene and then remember things about it afterwards. It improves your memory, but it also improves your ability to notice things in the first place.

By croydon — On Aug 14, 2014

@MrsPramm - I'm not sure if that counts as an exercise, since it's really just pointing out that people can't concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Although the article mentions optical illusions and I guess that's kind of the same thing.

For some reason I've always been pretty good at optical illusions, especially the ones called "Magic Eye", to the point where I don't need to do anything except unfocus my eyes to see them.

I suspect it's because I loved them a lot when I was a kid and I just kept looking at them until it became easy.

By MrsPramm — On Aug 14, 2014

One of the most famous perception exercises can be taken by anyone right now. It's often called the selective attention test. Although it's difficult to do it properly if you know what is happening in the test, so if you want to try it without it being spoiled, don't read the rest of this comment. Just look up "selective attention test" on Youtube and follow the instructions in the video.

They ask you to watch some people playing ball and count the number of times they pass the ball back and forth. While you're doing that, a man in a gorilla suit wanders past the back of the court.

Most people watching the video won't notice him at all if they are counting the passes. People who aren't counting will notice him right away. It's actually quite startling to watch it again if you didn't notice him the first time and realize what you missed.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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