What Is the Connection between Perception and Cognition?

Marlene de Wilde

The connection between perception and cognition is that perception is defined as acquiring information from the external world through the five senses and cognition as the processing of that information. They are very closely linked in that perception affects cognition which in turn affects perception. While perception is the gathering of information, cognition is the acquiring of knowledge through the use of perception, reasoning and intuition.

Perception refers to an individual's ability to be aware of what is happening in his or her environment.
Perception refers to an individual's ability to be aware of what is happening in his or her environment.

To understand perception is to understand how external stimuli interact with the senses to form visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory and gustatory representations of the world. There are many different types of perception including color, depth, form, haptic and speech perception. Different people have different modes of learning and based on whether they are picture thinkers, for example, will determine whether they rely on visual perception more than, say, auditory perception. Others who prefer to manipulate their environment may rely more on haptic perception to retain information. Methods of studying perception depend on the approach of the researcher and range from a basic biological or physiological approach to an essentially psychological or philosophical approach.

Cognition is related to how people mentally process their experiences and then base their decisions, conclusions and behavior on the results of those mental processes. People use their past knowledge and experiences to actively process the information gathered through the senses to form new concepts and ideas about their environment or current situation. As new information is acquired, percepts shift and these new perceptions form the basis of the self and the social self. People acquire, store and process information in different ways which accounts for different personalities and behavioral patterns.

The process of perception and cognition is largely unconscious and it is only when another person's behavior is challenging or the something in the environment is strange or threatening that interpreting behavior or external factors becomes more conscious. The fact that there is a lack of awareness that perception and cognition dictate attitudes and behavior is why people sometimes need the help of scientists such as psychologists to understand why they act or feel the way they do. However, the study of perception and cognition is one that is constant and on-going as the workings of the mind are still largely a mystery.

The processes involved in perception and cognition and the way they affect behavior are the basis of psychology and different branches of psychology place the emphasis of analysis on different aspects of the equation. Cognitive psychology, for example, is concerned with the mental processes such as perception, thinking, learning and memory whereas behaviorism is the theory that behavior, whether human or animal, is the result of conditioning and has little or no connection with thoughts or feelings. Cognitive psychologists concentrate on changing the thinking processes when trying to change maladaptive behaviors, whereas behaviorists would concentrate on changing the behavior patterns themselves.

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Discussion Comments


To understand the connection between perception and cognition, it may help to study psychology a little bit. I think that this connection plays out a little differently in different people because we have different personalities and different ways of thinking. So even though two people may see the same thing, their cognitive mind isn't going to come to the same exact conclusion about it.

I like learning about the Myers-Briggs personality types when it comes to understanding how different people think.


@SteamLouis-- That's actually a very difficult question to answer.

Intuition is something outside of rational thinking. It's a knowledge that occurs without reasoning or rational thinking. So it can't be proved but it is believed to play a role in perception and many psychologists have thought about it and have tried to study it.

You can think of it as the opposite of sense-based cognition, which is a conscious understanding that forms as a result of information that we pick up through sensory organs. It forms our perception. At the same time though, it is thought to be an element that contributes to perception. It may be that factor that allows us to complete a piece of information when we don't have enough sensory information to go on.

But since it's an unconscious thing, it can't really be proved. So exactly what roles intuition plays in this process is not know and I suspect that it will remain so for some time.


How does intuition play a role in perception and cognition? I have seen this mentioned a few times and I don't think I understand. We receive information through our sensory organs and then process them. That's perception and cognition. But what is intuition and what role does it play in this process exactly?

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