Attention is the ability to focus on a specific object or part of a conversation in a given environment while ignoring others (Styles, 2005). Once the brain gathers information from the surrounding environment, attention allows one to select on what they want to focus on from the brain.
It is attention that enables one to pick their area of interest. For instance, being able to have a phone conversation in a noisy night club while ignoring all the loud music or being able to listening to music in a busy traffic with hooting sounds. There are different types of attention according to scientists, namely; focused attention, sustained attention, selective attention, alternating attention and divided attention (Gear, 1989). On the other hand, perception is the ability to become aware of one’s environment by creating meaning from what is obtained by our sensory organs including ears, eyes, skin, smell and taste buds (Styles, 2005). Perception allows a person to interpret information from our senses based on existing information and expectations.
As such, perception enables individuals to create meaning from the sensory nerves. There are different types of perception including perceptual constancy which allows the mind to recognize an image from varying angles, light intensity and from different distance (Gear, 1989). For instance, white color appears the same under different light intensity and objects remain the same whether at close or long distance. Generally, perception helps us to create mental image which leads to an action.
In most cases, when one sees fire or a lion the mind decide what to do. So smell, touch, sight and sound determine how we perceive things.
Gear (1989) says when we see an object’s light travel to the eyes; we unconsciously interpret what that light means. In the same way, when we see an animal such as a cat in our environment the sensory nerves are able to construct the image which is then created in the mind, this is perception.
The same case happens when we hear certain sounds we are familiar with which we are able to interpret and form an image based on that. This creates the relationship between attention and perception. For instance, when we hear a dog bark our brain is able to process this information and creates an image even though we cannot see the dog at that moment. At times however, there are chances of having abnormal stimuli which can result to double images or double meaning (Styles, 2005).
Perception can also be determined by culture and social experiences that an individual has had before; before someone can choose where to put their focus on, they use what is called “bottom up and top down method” (Styles, 2005). Bottom up allows ones to scan through the environment or in their minds for already existing information while the top down method is based on one’s goals which can lead to forming habits. For instance, if one is used to keeping their car keys in a specific location, their minds will tend to focus their attention to that specific area whenever they want to use the keys, this is attention.
Attention and perception depend on each other. Perception is part of the brain that interprets what we feel, hear, taste and touch into images that we can be able to understand before the mind takes any action. Attention picks the image and determines what the mind will concentrate on depending on our goals, past experience and areas of interest (Styles, 2005).
Gear, J. (1989). Perception and the evolution of style: a new model of mind.
London: Routledge Press. Styles, A. (2005). Attention, perception and memory: An integrated production.
New York: Psychology press.