News, Knowledge
Knowledge / 04.09.2018

Perception and the way of processing information by humans, part 1

M. Merleau-Ponty describes perception as follows: "Perception is a set of cognitive processes whose task is to provide humans with contact with reality. It is an active interpretation of sensory data using contextual cues and previously acquired knowledge." From a phenomenological perspective, "Perception opens up to things. This means that it is directed towards truth in itself, where the reason for all manifestations lies. The silent proposition of perception is that experience at any moment can be coordinated with the experience of the preceding and following moment, and my perspective with the perspectives of other consciousnesses; (...)". P. Francuz, a researcher, also writes about the mystery of subjective seeing and the relativity of perception: "(...) modern science currently has no empirically verifiable hypothesis that would bring us closer to solving the problem of the relationship between the brain and the mind." According to the Polish Language Dictionary, perception is a "complex cognitive process that leads to the reception of certain phenomena or processes by a person, resulting from the action of specific stimuli on sensory organs; perception".

The human senses influence the way a person participates in the communication process. Blind or deaf individuals engage the senses that can serve as a substitute for the impaired sense in terms of cognition. Conducted experiments indicate that when a person suddenly loses their vision, the part of the brain responsible for processing visual stimuli is taken over by neuronal circuits responsible for processing auditory stimuli. An example of this can also be the process of learning Braille, as the visual system begins to process impulses transmitted by the sense of touch. In scientific terms, this implies a discussion of the neuroplasticity of the mind. "Plasticity - says Alvaro Pascual-Leone - is a normal state of the nervous system that lasts our entire lives. The brain constantly changes in response to our experiences and behaviors, reorganizing our neuronal circuits."

Similar processes occur during the use of graphical user interfaces. Failure to achieve a goal using available procedural means triggers a process characteristic of creative acts. Taste and smell currently do not play as significant a role in human-computer communication as sight, hearing, and touch. The classical model in HCI, defined as input-output, indicates the area of interaction between the computer and the human. The applications we use have a graphical interface equipped with selection menus, icons, and windows. Through interaction, the system provides information based on engaging the senses such as sight (elements appearing on the screen), hearing (system sounds, commands), and touch (keys or touch keyboards, where a sense of realism is stimulated by micro-vibrations). They constitute the main tools for contact with the external world. They allow for identification within the visual scene of such elements as shape, color, spatial organization, and dynamics. Thus, perception understood in this way includes the senses, the basis of which are cognitive processes, studied already in the 19th century, by such pioneers as George Berkeley, David Hume, and John Stuart Mill. Cognitive psychology deals with processes of acquiring, processing, and utilizing information. They include perception, attention, memory, imagination, problem-solving, thinking, and concepts (creating abstract representations of categories).

From the perspective of user interface design and usability testing, the leading sense is vision. Visual perception can be divided into two phases. The first is the early stage of processing visual data, where the human eye first registers light reflected in a specific visual scene using photoreceptors located in the retinas of both human eyes.
Once the bundle of photons enters the eye, we are dealing with complex neuronal processes. The second stage of visual processing concerns the processing in the brain's cortex and undoubtedly, this is the phase about which researchers know the least. It is accompanied by the phenomenon of subjective experience of seeing, which includes components such as understanding, interpretation, and emotions.

In studies using an eye tracker, the basic mechanism for framing the visual scene is through saccadic eye movements, which involve shifting gaze from one point to another. After each saccade, the eyes become still. This moment is defined in the literature as gaze fixation and is a key point in the process of perception. Using a camera metaphor, we can describe it as the moment of exposing the film. The brain therefore analyzes only those images that were encoded during fixation.

The process of perception involves creating a representation of an object based on the data obtained from sensory organs and, in some cases, information stored in memory. Perception is not only the result of perceptual analysis, but also the discovery of emotional content. These emotions may arise from the learning process, as exemplified by using an ATM where the user encounters obstacles that cause frustration. Subsequent use of ATM services can become a source of similar emotions. This example indicates that information processing is not solely a cognitive feature.

From a psychological perspective, there are four phases of perception. They consist of sensory registration, where the external stimulus is converted into a nerve impulse. Next, there is emotional evaluation, which involves valuing the stimulus. The following phase involves semantic recognition (categorization of the stimulus). The sensory data is compared with categories that already exist in memory. The human brain seeks categories to which the incoming stimuli would fit best. This process is sequential. The more stimuli a person considers during the comparison process, the longer it takes them. Therefore, it can be assumed that exposing excessive amounts of information on a  website, encouraging a specific action, prolongs the time it takes to make decisions, thereby reducing the return on investment (ROI). Implementing this knowledge is particularly important when designing e-commerce systems. In situations where the user has already moved on to completing the transaction (payment), offering additional products or services, such as those presented in contextual boxes, would not be appropriate.

The phase of evaluating metaphorical meaning (perception) does not always end with a simple recognition and is then associated with decoding at the discourse level, a specific competence in interpreting meanings. An example of this can be the interaction style known as WIMP (Windows, Icons, Menus, Pointer). The use of icons with specific symbols triggers connotations that can be read by a certain group of people functioning within a particular culture. Naturally, the process of acculturation, evolving towards the immanent features of the mental model, also remains significant. However, it can be assumed that for effective communication, the symbols that function within the cultural context become appropriate.

Author: PhD Robert Antoszczak