1902 Encyclopedia > Psychology > Meaning of Perceptions

(Part 26)

(E) Perception (cont.)

Meaning of Perceptions

Perception as psychological term as received various, though related, meaning for different writers. It is sometimes used for the recognition of a sensation or movement as distinct from its mere presentation, and thus is said to imply the more or less definite revival of certain residua or re-presentations of past experience which resembled that present. More frequently it is used as the equivalent of what has been otherwise called the "localization and projection" of sensations,—that is to say, a sensation presented either as an affection of some part of our own body regarded as extended or as state of some foreign body beyond it. According to the former usage, strictly taken, there might be perception without any spatial presentation at all : a sensation that had been attended to a few times might be perceived as familiar. Such percept being a "presentative-representative" complex, and wholly sensory, we might symbolize it, details apart, as S + s, using S for the present sensation, and s for a former S represented. According to the latter usage, an entirely new sensation, provided it were complicated with motor experiences in the way required for its localization or projection, would become a perception. Such a perception might be roughly symbolized as X + (M + m), or as X + m simply, M standing for actual movements, as in ocular adjustment, which in some cases might be only former movement represented or m. But as a matter of fact actual perception probably invariably includes both cases : impressions which we recognize we also localize or project, and impressions which are localized or projected are never entirely new,—they are, at least, perceived as sounds or colours or aches, &c. It will, however, frequently happen that we are specially concerned with only side of the whole process, as is the case with a tea-taster or a colour-mixer on the one hand, or, on the other, with the patient who is perplexed to decide whether what he sees and hears is "subjective," or whether it is "real." Usually we have more trouble to discriminate the quality of an impression than to fix it spatially ; indeed this latter process was taken for granted by most psychologist till recently. But, however little the two sides are actually separated, it is important to mark their logical distinctness, and it would be well if we had a precise name for each. In any other science save psychology such names would be at once forthcoming ; but it seem the fate of this science to be restricted in its terminology to the ill-defined and well-worn currency of common speech, with which every psychologist feels at liberty to do what is right in his own eyes, least within the wide range which a loose connotation allows. If there were any hope of their general acceptance we might propose to call the first-mentioned process the assimilation or recognition of an impression, and might apply the term localization to its spatial fixation, without distinguishing between the body and space beyond,—a matter of the less importance as projection hardly enters into primitive spatial experience. But there is still a distinction called for : perception as we now know it involves not only localization, or "spatial reference,’ as it is not very happily termed, but "objective reference" as well. We may perceive sound or light without any presentation of that which sound or shines ; but none the less we do not regard such sound of light as merely the object of our attention, as having only immanent existence, but as the quality or change or state of a thing, an object distinct not only from the subject attending but from all presentations whatever to which it attends. Here again the actual separation is impossible, because this factor in perception has been so intertwined throughout our mental development with the other two. Still a careful psychological analysis will show that such "reification," as we might almost call it, has depended on special circumstances, which we can at any rate conceive absent. These special circumstances are briefly the constant conjunction and successions of impressions, for which psychology can give no reason, and the constant movements to which they prompt. Thus we receive together, e.g., those impressions we now recognize as severally the scent, colour, and "feel" of the rose we pluck and handle. We might call each a "percept," and the whole a "complex percept." But there is more in such a complex than a sum of partial percepts ; there is the apprehension or intuition of the rose as a thing having this scent, colour, and texture. We have, then, under perception to consider (i.) the assimilation and (ii.) the localization of impressions, and (iii.) the intuition of things.

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