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    How to be a good Listener



    We can hear with our two ears, unless we have hearing problem, we can hear everything within hearing range. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you understand what you heard. Hearing is a physical and natural mental process. As we walk, we hear our footsteps, we can hear voices of people talking around us without really understand them and if our mind is conscious, we can hear any sounds even if its soft or far away. When we hear, we only perceive sounds but when we listen, our hearing is accompanied by a deliberate and purposeful act of the mind.


    According to research, the average listening efficiency rate in the business world is only 25 per cent. 85% of what we know is from listening, 45% of our time is spent on listening. A normal listener can only recall 50 per cent of the information conveyed after a 10 minute presentation and only 20% of it is remembered long term.

    Listening is part of communication process and the most important role in the process. We listen to obtain information, to understand and to learn. Your listening skill has a major impact on the quality of your relationship with others and your job effectiveness. We communicate every day, we receive message by listening.

    This article overviews three extremely important skills within the training of a guidance and counseling environment: active listening, the stages of listening and the barriers and how to deal with barriers in listening. Listening skills is a must learn skills for everyone, from students, teachers, parents, employee, employers and leaders. Not only it an important skills, but necessary in daily duties.



    Effective listening is arguably one of the most important skills to have nowadays. Business people and employees need effective listening skills to solve complex problems and achieve company’s goal. Personal relationships need effective listening skills to face complicated issues together. Effective listening, on the other hand, is not about the words having delivered, it requires more than hearing the sounds transmitted. Effective listening encourages that we for understanding of what the other person talks about or feel. And we can do this by focusing on other the person, by thoughts and feelings and not only by words.

    According to John C. Maxwell (The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork), creating positive change in an organization requires communication. Interaction fuels action. That is the power of the Law of Communication. Only with good communication can a team succeed-it doesn’t matter whether the team is a family, a company, a ministry, or a ball club. Effective teams have teammates who are constantly talking to one another. Communication increase commitment and connection; they in turn fuel action. If you want your team to perform at the highest level, the people on it need to be able to talk to and listen to one another.

    There are for purpose of listening that makes this skill important.


    I. To Gain New Information and Ideas

    One way of learning is by listening. For example, lecture in class can give you more understanding from what you read in your textbook, a customer bought a car by listening to a persuasive salesperson. New ideas are received daily, via the oral medium, if one listens. In other words, speakers must select reliable evidence. A goal is to arrive at a conclusion that is true, workable, and acceptable to many people.

    II. To question and Test Evidence and Assumptions

    When a speaker presents a message, much of what is said consists of facts (verifiable data) or opinions (inferences). Good listeners test those facts and opinions against assumptions and then question the speaker. You will get additional information and the selection of acceptable evidence and data by asking question and listening.

    III. To be inspired

    Listening to Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech can be inspiring. Sales Manager for example, gives motivation speech to his or her team. In order to inspire and be inspired, you have to listen to others.
    You have to listen to others, pay attention to their ideas and concerns, help them solve their problems, and be open to their influence. When you show your openness to their ideas and your interest in their concerns, your constituents will be more open to yours.

    IV. Improve Your Own Communication


    Role models and mentors are valuable to young people entering the business world. If your role model is an effective communicator, learn from them. There are also ways to study communicators, such as attending seminar, listening to great speaker on YouTube or television or join public speaking such as toastmaster. Choose the best techniques, listen for and adopt those that are done well. Add them to your list of desirable attributes. Omit undesirable habits that you see and hear.


    To be a better communicator and listening skills, it is important to learn each stage for these skills. There are four stages in listening skills, the first stage is receiving, secondly is understanding, third stage is evaluating and last stage is responding. Here are the stages in listening skills and tips for improvement.


    The first stage of the listening process is the receiving stage, which involves hearing and attending. In order to gather information, we must be able to physically hear what we are listening to. The clearer it is, the easier it is to listen and understand.

    Listening begins with receiving messages the speaker sends. Paired with hearing, attending is the other half of the receiving stage in the listening process. Attending is the process of accurately identifying and interpreting particular sounds we hear as words. The sounds we hear have no meaning until we give them their meaning in context. In listening you receive both the verbal and the nonverbal messages, not only the words but also the gestures, facial expressions, variations in volume and rate.

    Listeners are often bombarded with a variety of auditory stimuli all at once, so they must differentiate which of those stimuli are speech sounds and which are not. Effective listening involves being able to focus in on speech sounds while disregarding other noise.

    For example, your friend wants to tell you a story at a noisy restaurant, your friend is pouring her heart out, you as a listener needs to ignore the other sounds to listen and understand what she is trying to convey.
    To receive the message well, you should:

    • Look for feedback in response to previous message;
    • Avoid distractions in the environment and focus attention on the speaker rather than on what you’ll say next; and
    • Avoid interrupting the speaker until he or she is finished and maintain your role as a listener.


    The second stage is the listening process is the understanding process, which you learn what the speaker means. This understanding must take into consideration both the thoughts that are expressed and the emotional tone that accompanies them, the urgency or the joy or sorrow expressed in the message.
    This is the stage during which the listener determines the context and meanings of the words he or she hears. Determining the context and meaning of individual words, as well as assigning meaning in language, is essential to understanding sentences. This, in turn, is essential to understanding a speaker’s message.

    Understanding what we hear is a huge part of our everyday lives, particularly in terms of gathering basic information. For instance, in the office, employees listen to their superiors for instructions about what they are to do. At school, students listen to teachers to learn new information and knowledge. But without understanding what we hear, none of this everyday listening would relay any practical information to us.

    The simple act of listening to what other people have to say and appreciating their unique points of view demonstrates your respect for them and their ideas. Being sensitive to what others are going through creates bonds that make it easier to accept one another’s guidance and advice. These actions build mutual empathy and understanding, and that in turn build trust.

    To improve your understanding;
    • Ask questions to clarify or to secure additional details or examples if necessary.
    • See the speaker’s messages from the speaker’s point of view. Avoid judging the message until you’ve fully understood it—as the speaker intended it.
    • Rephrase the speaker’s ideas in your own words.


    This stage of the listening process is the one during which the listener assesses the information received, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Evaluating allows the listener to form an opinion of what she’s heard and, if necessary, to begin developing a response.

    During the evaluating stage, the listener determines whether or not the information she’s heard and understood from the speaker is well constructed or disorganized, biased or unbiased, true or false, significant or insignificant. This stage of critical analysis is important for a listener in terms of how what she’s heard will affect her own ideas, decisions, actions, and/or beliefs. Evaluating consists of judging messages in some way. At times, you may try to evaluate the speaker’s underlying intent. Often this evaluation process goes on without much conscious thought.

    The evaluating stage occurs most effectively once the listener fully understands what the speaker is trying to say. While we can, and sometimes do, form opinions of information and ideas that we don’t fully understand–or even that we misunderstand–doing so is not often ideal in the long run. Having a clear understanding of a speaker’s message allows a listener to evaluate that message without getting bogged down in ambiguities or spending unnecessary time and energy addressing points that may be tangential or otherwise nonessential.
    In evaluating, try to:
    • Resist evaluation until you fully understand the speaker’s point of view.
    • Give the speaker the benefit of any doubt by asking for clarification on issues that you feel you must object to, if any.
    • Distinguish facts from inferences opinions, and personal interpretations by the speaker.
    • Identify any biases, self-interests, or prejudices that may lead the speaker to slant unfairly what is presented.


    The responding stage is the stage of the listening process wherein the listener provides verbal and/or nonverbal reactions based on short- or long-term memory.  A listener can respond to what she hears either verbally or non-verbally. Nonverbal signals can include gestures such as nodding, making eye contact, tapping her pen, fidgeting, scratching or cocking her head, smiling, rolling her eyes, grimacing, or any other body language. These kinds of responses can be displayed purposefully or involuntarily. Responding verbally might involve asking a question, requesting additional information, redirecting or changing the focus of a conversation, cutting off a speaker, or repeating what a speaker has said back to her in order to verify that the received message matches the intended message.

    Nonverbal responses like nodding or eye contact allow the listener to communicate her level of interest without interrupting the speaker, thereby preserving the speaker/listener roles. When a listener responds verbally to what she hears and remembers—for example, with a question or a comment—the speaker/listener roles are reversed, at least momentarily.

    Responding adds action to the listening process, which would otherwise be an outwardly passive process. Oftentimes, the speaker looks for verbal and nonverbal responses from the listener to determine if and how her message is being understood and/or considered. Based on the listener’s responses, the speaker can choose to either adjust or continue with the delivery of her message. For example, if a listener’s brow is furrowed and her arms are crossed, the speaker may determine that she needs to lighten her tone to better communicate her point. If a listener is smiling and nodding or asking questions, the speaker may feel that the listener is engaged and her message is being communicated effectively.  Be a good responder by using these tips:
    • Express support for the speaker in your final responses. Be honest; the speaker has a right to expect honest responses, even if these express anger or disagreement.
    • State your thoughts and feelings as your own, using I-messages. For example, say “I think the new proposal will entail greater expense than you outlined” rather than “Everyone will object to the plan for costing too much.”



    There are many things that get in the way of listening and you should be aware of these barriers, many of which are bad habits, in order to become a more effective listener. Thus, it is beneficial if we can understand and eliminate listening barriers that blocks deep, harmonious and lasting relationships. We feel that listening is easy as just give an ear or to reply without understanding the whole message and this is can be a barriers to effective listening.  A barrier is anything that gets in the way of clear communications. There are many barriers which come in the way of effective listening. Some of which are as following;

    Prejudice against the Speaker

    Prejudice is a preconceived opinion of feeling, which is usually irrational. We are distracted and unable to maintain attention because of our conflicts with our attitudes. With your critical evaluations of the speaker’s position, attitude, appearance or belief, you will not focus on the message or information the speaker trying to give. A prejudiced person will not make any effort to listen and understand.

    External Distractions

    Physical or environment, such as inappropriate décor in a room, the light too bright or too dim, the sound of the fan or music background too loud. Environment condition such as, the room being too hot or too cold are the external distraction for listener. Having your mobile phone on can be distracting too as you have tendency to always check whenever it ring or vibrate. Sitting near talkative or disturbing individuals can also distract listener’s attention from the speaker’s message.

    Internal distraction

    We react emotionally to certain words, concept and ideas given from the speakers. Also by looking at the speaker’s appearance and other cues, we tend to judge and questions and within ourselves. With this emotional reaction within us, we cannot focus on what the person trying to convey. Internal reaction words vary from person to person, each list influenced by feelings, attitudes, prejudices and biases we carry inside ourselves. Hence, some words cause negative reactions.

    Experiencing physical difficulty

    Feeling physically unwell, experiencing pain or hungry can make it very difficult to listen effectively. Imagine a person who has headache or migraine, the only things he or she can focus is the pain in their head.

    Experiencing Information Overloaded

    Most of us speak between 80 and 160 words per minute. Yet people have the capacity to think at the phenomenal rate of up to 800 words per minute. That leaves time on the listener’s hands (or in his or her head). Too much stimulation or information can make it shift their attention away from the speaker’s words.

    Excessive Talking


    People with good conversational skills are more likely to achieve professional success. We want to anticipate in the conversation, you interrupted even before they completed their thought. Directly as a result of our rapid thinking speed, we race ahead to what we feel is the conclusion. We anticipate. We arrive at the concluding thought quickly-although often one that is quite different from the speaker intended.

    However, taking more than necessary is a barrier to effective communication. People hesitate to interact with a person who talks excessively without listening to them. They may also get bored and excessive talking may be perceived as aggression. When we spend our listening time formulating our next response, we cannot be fully attentive to what the speaker is saying.


    There is always solution to every problem. Here are the some steps and suggestions to overcome the barriers to listening.


    Overcoming Prejudice

    Respect the other person for his or her knowledge and skills. The moment we stop listening, we stop learning, especially if the person gives important information or knowledge. Be open-minded to listen and learn from other people, irrespective of the person’s background. Make conscious effort to take charge of your thoughts and avoid saying “I know what he or she is going to say” attitude while the other person is speaking. Remember that you don’t have to agree with everything, but it’s helpful if you at least consider listening.

    Get Comfortable

    In order to get yourself from the external distraction, you could try change the environment, for example ask to reduce the aircond’s temperature if it’s too cold, or change seat where is more comfortable. Learn not only to put your mobile phone on silent mode but switch it off. But if there is nothing you can change during that situation, you should learn to focus on the speaker rather than the environment around you. Face the person who is speaking and maintain eye contact while the other person is speaking.

    The Art of Listening

    As most of us have a lot of internal self-dialogue we spend a lot of time listening to our own thoughts and feelings – it can be difficult to switch the focus from ‘I’ or ‘me’ to ‘them’ or ‘you’. Effective listening involves opening your mind to the views of others and attempting to feel empathetic.
    According to Daniel Goleman (Working with Emotional Intelligence), Listening well and deeply means going beyond what is said by asking questions, restating in one’s own words what you hear to be sure you understand. This is “active” listening. A mark of having truly heard someone else is to respond appropriately, even if that means making some change in what you do.

    Reschedule Meeting

    If you experience physical difficulty, you may need to get excuse and reschedule the meeting to another day. It is impossible to concentrate when you are unwell, experience pain or hungry. Otherwise, you may need to concentrate even more on the task of listening.

    Stop and Listen

    Focus on the other person, their thoughts and feelings. Consciously focus on quieting your own internal commentary, and step away from your own concerns to think about those of the speaker. Listen for the essence of the speaker’s thoughts, ideas and meaning. Seek and understanding of what the speaker is trying to convey.

    Think Before You Speak

    In order to overcome excessive talking habit, you should learn to think before you speak. Do not speak if you have nothing to contribute. Always practice self-control and be brief while conveying your thoughts. Allow the other person to speak, avoid interrupting when the other person is speaking and be aware of indulging in useless talk for the sake of talking. If you seek to clarify something, use appropriate body language such as raising your hand or ask politely for more details such as “I am sorry to interrupt you…”.


    My research for this article, with reference from books and online articles shows that listening skill is an important skill.  Not only important for those in counselling field but apply to all, from family to business people. Listening skills are crucial to parents, as this skill helps them listen and understand their children. Students will be able to understand more on what their teachers present by listening attentively. Listening skills is a must learn skills for everyone, from students, teachers, parents, employee, employers and leaders. Not only it an important skills, but necessary in daily duties.

    The four stages of listening is important to understand. The first stage of the listening process is the receiving stage, which involves hearing and attending. In order to gather information, we must be able to physically hear what we are listening to. The second stage is understanding, where we need to understand the message conveyed to us, the third stage is to evaluate the message and lastly after we respond after analyzing using the earlier stages.

    It is important to learn and understand these stages of listening, to improve our communication skills. We overlook this skill as it sound easy but having said that, we create our own barrier of listening.  To conclude, I believe listening skill are more than a skill, it is a job and duties which can help us in our daily lives. It is important to learn how to listen, by listening we are learning.

    Notes :  This article in assignment layout are available upon request


    Active Listening Hear What People are Really Saying(online)https://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm. Retrieved on 4 July 2016
    Active Listening Skills. Anna Martin. 23 May 2016. The Counsellors Guide. (Online) http://www.thecounsellorsguide.co.uk/active-listening-skills.html. Retrieved on 9 July 2016
    Communication Skills: Speaking and Listening. University of Kent. (online) https://www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sk/communicating.htm#Listening. Retrieved on 3 July 2016
    Bethamy, P. Roger. Listening and Responding to Others. Communication in a Changing World. (online) http://highered.mheducation.com/sites/0072332123/student_view0/chapter4/index.html. Retrieved on 9 July 2016
    Effective Communication. Help Guid.Org (Online) http://www.helpguide.org/articles/relationships/effective-communication.htm. Retrieved on 14 July 2016
    Effective Listening: 10 Barriers and How to Overcome Them. http:/ by: Srikanth Radhakrishna • edited by: Donna Cosmato • updated: 10/24/2014 (Online) Bright Hub PM. www.brighthubpm.com/resource-management/122339-effective-listening-10-barriers-and-how-to-overcome-them/ Retrieved on 14 July 2016
    Listening Skills. Skills You Need. (online) http://www.skillsyouneed.com/ips/listening-skills.html. Retrieved on 4 July 2016
    The Importance of Listening. Boundless (Online) https://www.boundless.com/communications/textbooks/boundless-communications-textbook/learning-to-listen-and-helping-others-do-the-same-5/understanding-listening-29/the-importance-of-listening-132-8285/. Retrieved on 8 July 2016
    Goleman, D. (1999). Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York, USA: Bantam Books.
    Maxwell, J. C. (2001). The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork. Nashville, Tenesse, USA: Thomas Nelson.
    Milne, A. (2014). Understanding Counselling. Euston Road, London: Hodder Education.
    Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The Leadership Challenge (5th ed.). One Montgomery Street, San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass.
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    Sensation and Perception

    Whenever we hear the words ‘psychology’, our mind wandered about magic or mystery.   In many television programs or movies, it often shows that psychologist as reading mind and solving the mystery of the crime.  Also we often sees a scene where a psychologist listening tentatively to a client about their problems.  What is shown on television is indeed how psychology works but there not only solve problems or listening to their client’s problem, they help people with all sorts of problems, working with them to bring about change for the better.

    We use psychology every day in our life, in our parenting skills in communicating with our children, to correct our child’s behaviour and helping them in their learning.  We also use psychology in negotiation with a salesperson to give you good discount and we do this with the right communication and facial expression.  From everyday actions and interactions to the rarer triumphs and tragedies of life, psychology is all around us and it helps us in many ways.

    What is psychology and why is it so interesting? Psychology is more than magic, illusion or problems.   Psychology is the scientific study of behaviour and mental process in both human and animals by thorough observation.  The study behaviour that includes our outward or overt reactions, such as talking, facial expressions and movement and mental process that refers to all the internal, covert (hidden) activity of our minds, such as thinking, feeling and remembering.

    We learned from young about the five senses and how it helps us in our daily life.  We us our eyes to see, ear to listen, nose to smell, touch to feel and tongue to taste.  All of these senses give us information (sensation) which our brains have to interpret (perception).  But there are people who are not born with these five senses, so they use their senses and interpret in different way.  For example a blind people cannot use their eyes to see but they build pictures using his sense of touch, by listening to the echoes of clicks of his tongue and taps of his cane as these sounds bounce off objects in his surroundings, a technique called echolocation.

    The words ‘sensation’ and ‘perception’ are interrelated, which makes it quite easy to mix up the definition of the two words. Sensation is essentially the ‘feeling’ what we feel with our senses. Sensations are things in our environment that are registered by the five major sensory organs. Sensation is what we see, hear, smell, taste and feel. Perception is how we interpret these sensations. Perception helps us make sense of our sensations.

    This paper will explain more on what sensation and perception all about.  How we interpret the world around us.


    Sensation is the process by which our senses gather information and send it to the brain.  A large amount of information is being sensed at any one time such as room temperature, brightness of the lights, someone talking, a distant train, or the smell of perfume.  With all this information coming into our senses, the majority of our world never gets recognized.  We don’t notice radio waves, x-rays, or the microscopic parasites crawling on our skin.  We don’t sense all the odours around us or taste every individual spice in our gourmet dinner.  We only sense those things we are able too since we don’t have the sense of smell like a bloodhound or the sense of sight like a hawk; our thresholds are different from these animals and often even from each other.

    5 senses

    What is sensation?  Sensation occurs when special receptors in the sense organs – the eyes, ears, nose, skin, and taste buds are activated, allowing various forms of outside stimuli to become neutral signals in the brain.  This process of converting outside stimuli, such as light, into neutral activity is called transduction. (K.Ciccarelli. N. White. Pearson. Pg. 128)

    The sensory receptors are specialized forms of neurons, the cells that make up the nervous system.  Instead of receiving neurotransmitters from other cells, these receptor cells are stimulated by different kinds of energy- for example, the receptors in the eyes are stimulated by light, whereas the receptors in the ears are activated by vibrations.  Touch receptors are stimulated by pressure or temperature, and the receptors for taste and smell are triggered by chemical substances.  Each receptor type transduces the physical information into electrical information in different ways, which then either depolarizes or hyperpolarized the cell, causing it to fire more or to fire less based on the timing and intensity of information it is detecting from the environment (Gardner & Johnson, 2013).


    Ernst Weber (pronouned vay-ber), a 19th century experimental psychologist, observed that the size of the difference threshold appeared to be lawfully related to initial stimulus magnitude.


    Figure 2 – Ernst Weber(1975-1878)

    Weber’s Law, more simply stated, says that the size of the just noticeable difference (i.e., delta I) is a constant proportion of the original stimulus value.  For example: Suppose that you presented two spots of light each with an intensity of 100 units to an observer.  Then you asked the observer to increase the intensity of one of the spots until it was just noticeably brighter than the other.  If the brightness needed to yield the just noticeable difference was 110 then the observer’s difference threshold would be 10 units (i.e., delta I =110 – 100 = 10).  (WebersLaw.html). His research led the formulation known as Weber’s law of just noticeable differences (jnd, of the difference threshold).

    Gustav Fechner (1801-1887) expanded on Weber’s work by studying something he called the absolute threshold (Fechner,1860).  An absolute threshold is the lowest level of stimulation that a person can consciously detect 50 percent of the time the stimulation is present.  For example, assuming a very quiet room and normal hearing, how far away can someone sit and you might still hear the tick of their analog watch on half of the trials?  Figure 1 is the examples of absolute thresholds for various senses.


    Sense Detection Threshold
    Vision A candle flame at 30 miles on a dark, clear night
    Hearing The tick of a mechanical watch under quiet conditions at 20 feet
    Taste One teaspoon of sugar in 2 gallons of water
    Smell One drop of perfume diffused into the entire volume of a three-bedroom apartment
    Touch The wing of a bee falling on your cheek from a distance of 1 centimeter

    Stimuli that are below the level of conscious awareness are called subliminal stimuli. (the word limin means “threshold, “so sublimin means “below the threshold.)  These stimuli are just strong enough to activate the sensory receptors but not strong enough for people to be consciously aware of them.  Many people believe that these stimuli act upon the unconscious mind, influencing behaviour in a process called subliminal perception.


    Some of the lower centers of the brain filter sensory stimulation and “ignore” or prevent conscious attention to stimuli that do not change.  The brain is primarily interested in changes in information.  That’s why people don’t change.   That’s why people don’t really “hear” the noise of the air conditioner unless it suddenly cuts off, or the noise made in some classrooms, unless it gets very quiet or someone else directs their attention toward it.  Although they actually are hearing it, they aren’t paying attention to it.  This is called habituation and it is the way the brain deals with unchanging information from the environment.   For example, you don’t like to eat ‘tuhau’ ( a Sabah local traditional food) when you eat, the food you put in your mouth tastes strong at first, but as you keep eating the same thing, the taste does fade and you beginning to get used to it.  All our senses are subject to sensory adaptation.


    When we are in a crown room with lots of people talking, we find it difficult to focus on any particular stimulus, like the conversation we are having with a friend.  We try to focus our attention and at the same time trying to ignore the flood of information entering our senses.  When we do this, we are making a determination as to what is important to sense and what is background noise.  This concept is referred to as signal detection because we attempt detect what we want to focus on and ignore and minimize everything else.


    What is Perception?  Perception is the method by which the brain takes all the sensations a person experiences at any given moment and allows them to be interpreted in some meaningful fashion.  Perception has some individuality to it.  For example, two people might be looking at a cloud and while one thing it’s shaped like a horse, the other things it’s more like a cow.  They both see the same cloud, but they perceive that cloud differently.  As individual as perception might be, some similarities exist in how people perceive the world around them. (K. Ciccarelli. N. White. Pearson. Pg. 154)


    Imagine if every time an object changed we had to completely reprocess it.  The next time you walk toward a building, you would have to re-evaluate the size of the building with each step, because we all know as we get closer, everything gets bigger.  The building which once stood only several inches is now somehow more than 50 feet tall.

    Luckily, this doesn’t happen.  Due to our ability to maintain constancy in our perceptions, we see that building as the same height no matter what distance it is.  Perceptual constancy refers to our ability to see things differently without having to reinterpret the object’s properties.  There are typically three constancies discussed, including size, shape, brightness.

    Size constancy refers to our ability to see objects as maintaining the same size even when our distance from them makes things appear larger or smaller.  This holds true for all of our senses.  As we walk away from our radio, the song appears to get softer.  We understand, and perceive it as being just as loud as before.  The difference being our distance from what we are sensing.

    Everybody has seen a plate shaped in the form of a circle.  When we see that same plate from an angle, however, it looks more like an ellipse.  Shape constancy allows us to perceive that plate as still being a circle even though the angle from which we view it appears to distort the shape.  Brightness constancy refers to our ability to recognize that colour remains the same regardless of how it looks under different levels of light.  That deep blue shirt you wore to the beach suddenly looks black when you walk indoors.  Without colour constancy, we would be constantly re-interpreting colour and would be amazed at the miraculous conversion our clothes undertake.


    The German word “Gestalt” roughly translates to “whole” or “form,” and the Gestalt psychologist’s sincerely believed that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  In order to interpret what we receive through our senses, they theorized that we attempt to organize this information into certain groups.  This allows us to interpret the information completely without unneeded repetition.  For example, when you see one dot, you perceive it as such, but when you see five dots together, you group them together by saying a “row of dots.”  Without this tendency to group our perceptions, that same row would be seen as “dot, dot, dot, dot, dot,” taking both longer to process and reducing our perceptive ability.  The Gestalt principles of grouping include four types: similarity, proximity, continuity, and closure.



    Similarity refers to our tendency to group things together based upon how similar to each other they are.  In the first figure above, we tend to see two rows of red dots and two rows of black dots.  The dots are grouped according to similar colour.  In the next figure, we tend to perceive three columns of two lines each rather than six different lines.  The lines are grouped together because of how close they are to each other, or their proximity to one another.  Continuity refers to our tendency to see patterns and therefore perceive things as belonging together if they form some type of continuous pattern.  In the third figure, although merely a series of dots, it begins to look like an “X” as we perceive the upper left side as continuing all the way to the lower right and the lower left all the way to the upper right.  Finally, in the fourth figure, we demonstrate closure, or our tendency to complete familiar objects that have gaps in them.  Even at first glance, we perceive a circle and a square.


    We determine distance using two different cues: monocular and binocular.  Monocular cues are those cues which can be seen using only one eye.  They include size; texture, overlap shading, height, and clarity.

    Size refers to the fact that larger images are perceived as closer to us, especially if the two images are of the same object.   The texture of objects tend to become smoother as the object gets farther away, suggesting that more detailed textured objects are closer.  Due to overlap, those objects covering part of another object is perceived as closer.  The shading or shadows of objects can give a clue to their distance, allowing closer objects to cast longer shadows which will overlap objects which are farther away.  Objects which are closer to the bottom of our visual field are seen as closer to us due to our perception of the horizon, where higher (height) means farther away.  Similar to texture, objects tend to get blurry as they get farther away.  Therefore, clearer images tend to be perceived as closer (clarity).

    Binocular cues refer to those depth cues in which both eyes are needed to perceive.  There are two important binocular cues; convergence and retinal disparity.  Convergence refers to the fact that the closer an object, the more inward our eyes need to turn in order to focus.  The farther our eyes converge, the closer an object appears to be.  Since our eyes see two images which are then sent to our brains for interpretation, the distance between these two images, or their retinal disparity, provides another cue regarding the distance of the object.


    An illusion is a perception that does not correspond to reality:  people think they see something when the reality is quite different, it’s the visual stimuli that “fool” or trick the eye.


    For example figure 4,notice anything as you move your eyes over this image?  This image is not moving, seeing the “snakes” rotate is due at least in part to movements of your eyes.

    Human perception of the world is obviously influenced by things such as culture and misinterpretations of cues.  Following are other factors that cause people to alter their perceptions.  People often misunderstand what is said to them because they were expecting to hear something else.  People’s tendency to perceive things a certain way because their previous experiences or expectations influence them is called perceptual set or perceptual expectancy.  Although expectancies can be useful in interpreting certain stimuli, they can also lead people down the wrong path.

    For example, on figure 5 what do you see?

    old lady

    Some people can see a portrait of a young lady but some could only see a face of an old lady.


    We have discovered earlier how sensation and perception works in our life and helps us see the world.  The same process with everyone else but why do we perceive the world differently.  This is because people’s behaviour is based on their perception on what reality is, not on reality of itself.

    How do you see yourself?  How do you see the world around you?  How do others see you?  Do you take action based on your needs and goals, or is your behavior dependent on how you feel others will view you?  There are two types of perception; the way you see yourself and your world and the way others see you and their world.  The only perception you have control over is your own but it is impossible to control the perception of others.

    So if you feel the urge to change other people’s behaviour, then it would seem that the most the most sensible place to start would be with changing yourself……  “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Albert Einstein

    According to David Schlundt, Psychologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, “You could look at a photograph and you would always be able to pick yourself out because we all have internal representations of what we look like”.   “But all of your experiences, all the teasing you went through as a child, all the self-consciousness you had as a teenager, and all the worrying about whether you would be accepted as good enough or attractive enough are called forth in” how people think of themselves, Schlundt said. “It’s not a perceptual thing. It’s a combination of emotion, meaning and experience that builds up over our lifetime and gets packaged into a self-schema.”

    Our mind and thinking were mould by our ancestor, how we look and perceive everything around us, making sense of our world, forming judgements and opinions about every situations, event and interaction.  Those judgements and opinion will be affected by our central or core belief system, which influenced by our past experiences, childhood upbringing, culture, faith, values, current circumstances and our character traits (genetic influences).  Our opinions are driven by emotion mind, whereas reasonable mind is better able to see the facts and more aware of the bigger picture.

    As we grow and learn more, our perspectives are changing.  Our learning and experience change through time, our expectation and perception changing from these.

    Figure 7 – Our perception


    Seeing different perspectives will help to reduce distressing emotions, help us feel more confident, enable us to be more understanding and emphatic, and improve communication and relationship.  As we challenge our unhelpful thoughts and biased perspectives, and see things in a more balanced and realistic way, so we discover that situations and people can be different to how we usually interpret things, which can lead us to modify our core belief system, and therefore bring about lasting positive change.  We look at things through the same two eyes but our perception make senses of the world we live in.

    We live in our own world and how we want people to think or perceive you is impossible but we can stop worrying on what they might perceive or think about you.  To live in this world, full of different type of personalities, we need to learn to be considerate.  What others do or how they act is their choice, but it is up to each of us how we perceive their behaviour.   You will see in people whatever you unconsciously expect to see, and you will only perceive things that you have in you.   Whatever we each focus on, remember energy follows where your attention goes, we then project onto others in terms of how we want them to act.  Once your judgment of that person comes to your conscious attention, it is your projection.   So instead of judging other people, we can consider just do good to them and others will do good to us.


    Sensations are the mind’s window to the world that exists around us.  Without sensations to tell us what is outside our own mental world, we would live entirely in our own minds, separate from one another and unable to find food or any other basics that sustain life.  Perception is the process of interpreting the sensations we experience so that we can act upon them, without perception, we would be unable to understand what all those sensations mean.

    Over time, we are influence by our belief, our life experience, faith and cultures but as we grow, we learn to shape our own perception.  We living in a world but the world we have is how we look at things.  The world is internally, how we think and react in every situation.


    Bryan Golden (Oct 20, 2011) Perception can influence you in many ways (ONLINE) Available : http://www.presspublications.com/opinionscolumns/146-dare-to-live-without-limits/7930-perception-can-influence-you-in-many-ways (February 20, 2016)
    Dr. Christopher L. Heffner Chapter 5: Section 3: Perception (ONLINE) http://allpsych.com/psychology101/perception/ (March 10, 2016)
    Emily Sohn (April 24, 2013) Why We Don’t See Ourselves as Others Do (ONLINE) Available :http://news.discovery.com/human/psychology/why-we-dont-see-ourselves-as-others-do-130423.htm (March 1, 2016)
    Gregg Henriques Ph.D. Theory of Knowledge (May 1, 2013) Perception and Perceptual Illusions. Psychology Today (ONLINE) Available: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/theory-knowledge/201305/perception-and-perceptual-illusions
    Nedha (July 29, 2011) Difference Between Sensation and Perception. (online).http://www.differencebetween.com/difference-between-sensation-and-vs perception/(February 27, 2015)

    Natalie Wolchover  (October 04, 2012) How do Blind People Picture Reality? (ONLINE)

    http://www.livescience.com/23709-blind-people-picture-reality.html (February 28, 2015)
    S.Ciccarelli. White.J (2015). Psychology. Sensation and Perception (pg.125-167) 4th edition (global edition) Pearson. Essex England.
    Weber’s Law of Just Noticeable Differences.(ONLINE). AVAILABLE: http://apps.usd.edu/coglab/WebersLaw.html (March 20, 2016)