Perceptual Sets

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Perceptual Sets
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Perceptual Sets & Mental Sets

Perceptual Set- A psychological term. Definitions:

This is the expectation of a person to see or perceive something based on prior experience. Writers sometimes use this concept in movie scripts in a humorous scene. For example, people expect a large man to have a very low voice. This is a stereotype. If instead, the large man in a movie speaks in a very high pitched voice, the audience is surprised and therefore finds the scene funny.

From Wiki:
In psychology, a set is a group of expectations that shape experience by making people especially sensitive to specific kinds of information. A perceptual set, also called perceptual expectancy, is a predisposition to perceive things in a certain way.

Perceptual sets occur in all the different senses.They can be long term, such as a special sensitivity to hearing one's own name in a crowded room, or short term, as in the ease with which hungry people notice the smell of food.A mental set is a framework for thinking about a problem. It can be shaped by habit or by desire. Mental sets can make it easy to solve a class of problem, but attachment to an inappropriate mental set can restrict problem-solving and creativity.

Perceptual set theory stresses the idea of perception as an active process involving selection, inference and interpretation.

The concept of perceptual set is important to the active process of perception. Allport, 1955 defined perceptual set as:
"a perceptual bias or predisposition or readiness to perceive particular features of a stimulus".


Perception can be shaped by "top-down" processes such as drives and expectations. An effect of these factors is that people are particularly sensitive to perceive certain things, detecting them from weaker stimuli than otherwise. Perceptual set is a tendency to perceive or notice some aspects of the available sensory data and ignore others. According to Vernon, 1955 perceptual set works in two ways:

(1) The perceiver has certain expectations and focuses attention on particular aspects of the sensory data: This he calls a Selector'.

(2) The perceiver knows how to classify, understand and name selected data and what inferences to draw from it. This he calls an 'Interpreter'.

It has been found that a number of variables, or factors, influence perceptual set, and set in turn influences perception. The factors include:

? Expectations
? Emotion
? Motivation
? Culture

A simple example of a perceptual set could be the following:

''The fat cat sat on the the mat.''

If you failed to notice the repetition of 'the', you have just shown a prime example of a perceptual set. Based on previous results, you only expect there to be one 'the', not two.

A study by Bugelski and Alampay, 1961 using the 'rat-man' ambiguous figure also demonstrated the importance of expectation in inducing set. Participants were shown either a series of animal pictures or neutral pictures prior to exposure to the ambiguous picture. They found participants were significantly more likely to perceive the ambiguous picture as a rat if they had had prior exposure to animal pictures.

Deregowski (1972) investigated whether pictures are seen and understood in the same way in different cultures. His findings suggest that perceiving perspective in drawings is in fact a specific cultural skill, which is learned rather than automatic. He found people from several cultures prefer drawings which don't show perspective, but instead are split so as to show both sides of an object at the same time. In one study he found a fairly consistent preference among African children and adults for split-type drawings over perspective-drawings. Split type drawings show all the important features of an object which could not normally be seen at once from that perspective. Perspective drawings give just one view of an object. Deregowski argued that this split-style representation is universal and is found in European children before they are taught differently.

A simple demonstration of the effect involved very brief presentations of non-words such as "sael". Subjects who were told to expect words about animals read it as "seal", but others who were expecting boat-related words read it as "sail".

Sets can be created by motivation and so can result in people interpreting ambiguous figures so that they see what they want to see. For instance, how someone perceives what unfolds during a sports game can be biased if they strongly support one of the teams.

Perceptual set has been demonstrated in many social contexts. People who are primed to think of someone as "warm" are more likely to perceive a variety of positive characteristics in them, than if the word "warm" is replaced by "cold". When someone has a reputation for being funny, an audience are more likely to find them amusing. Individual's perceptual sets reflect their own personality traits. For example, people with an aggressive personality are quicker to correctly identify aggressive words or situations.

Mental sets-
Mental sets are subconscious tendencies to approach a problem in a particular way, usually based on the method that worked previously. They are shaped by past experiences and habits. An inappropriate mental set can hamper the solution of straightforward problems.

For example when people are asked, "When a United States plane carrying Canadian passengers crashes in international waters, where should the survivors be buried?" the phrasing of the question suggests that it is a problem of international law. People who interpret the statement with this mental set will miss the fact that survivors would not need to be buried.

A specific form of mental set is functional fixedness, in which someone fails to see the variety of uses to which an object can be put. An example would be someone who needs a weight but fails to use an easily available hammer because their mental set is to think of a hammer as for a specific purpose.

It'd be interesting to see her perceptual and mental sets can affect magic and the craft.

Psychology: Themes and Variations- Wayne Weiten.
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Re: Perceptual Sets
Post # 2
I have to say, I am getting more into psychology lately, especially with your fantastic posts. I'd love to know more.

Mind if I pop you a message?
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Re: Perceptual Sets
Post # 3
Feel free. Glad you liked it.
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