The result of using one's senses, or the action of using them. An impression or experience of the world, or sometimes of a hallucination.

Also used metaphorically to refer to a worldview, mood, or attitude, sometimes with the connotation of that view being erroneous. "That's just your perception!"

All around me a desert. Warm, dry air blows through my hair. Red dirt and rock go on in every direction. Ahead a cactus. Tall, dark, unchanging. Thirsty for the shade. Mesmerized by this lone figure or just curious about the prickly giant, I walk towards it. I find that it’s closer than I had first figured, because I am there in an instant.

“Hello,” it said, as if he could talk.

My journey was long,” I say. “A lifetime.”

“I know your tale, a familiar one. But rest at ease my friend, for tonight you may sleep the sleep of a thousand years.”

Yet, you have never left the comfort of your own home.


The way we perceive the world around us.

Since we were born, we have been told how to live in this world. We have been told what is good and what is bad. We have been told how we are suppose to interact with different everyday events.

From all of the input our minds absorb throughout our life, we grow an image of the ways of the world. The way the world interacts with itself.

Now lets suppose that we were wrong. Wrong about the ways of the world. Wrong about which direction is up, or down. Wrong about the desert being warm, and snow cold. Let’s suppose that for just a minute nothing could be counted on to act the way we know that it does. That the weather will change from clear skies to a tornado, that the snow will melt our skin, that everyday actions are miracles in the making.

Close your eyes. Now imagine a peaceful, tranquil island. You are there alone in the paradise. The ocean gently throwing waves upon the shore. The tropical breeze blowing through tropical trees.

Now lets also say that on your little island, you are more at peace and feel more relaxed than you have ever been in your life.

Ahhh, feels so good, so refreshing. Your breath one with the current upon the sand. Total and thorough peace.

The next thing that you experience as you open your eyes is, of course, remembering that you are in the same location you had been a few moments before, namely NOT on the beach.

Bummer huh? But what if you could tell your mind that you really were on the island. What if, for all you knew, the island was real. That you had really been relaxing on the beach. What if you were even sweating from that hot sun?

If we could be convinced that the island was real, than who’s to say that it isn’t?

Take for instance, you are missing some money. Lets say that you and your daughter are the only ones home.

Assuming you didn’t lose the money on your way home, you can be reasonably assured that your loving daughter has confiscated your cash.

Everything you feel, points to her. Everything in reason leads to her. You have no doubt in your mind that the culprit is your very own. So to you, there is no other way. Your daughter has the money.

Now lets examine this. You take in all the information just like you do with every event in your life. You analyze the info and compare it to past experiences, and generalrules of thumb”. You compare it against laws of nature and also unforeseen possibilities. All of which are a common set of factors that you use to evaluate all of your day to day activities. Now of course, after a number of years of this, it becomes our very own nature. Our “Human Nature”. It’s how we judge each other, and how we learn to cope with the world around us.

Back to our money problem.

Now that you know your daughter has the money, you decide it’s time to get it back, right? So you venture downstairs and into the living room where you hear the TV and what do you expect to see ? Maybe you expected her to be deep in her show. Maybe you thought she was reading. Maybe you thought she had made herself a snack.

Of course, and of these would be ok. All of them are normal, everyday occurrences. All are in the norm. You didn’t even give it much thought, because of that norm either. Everyday life happenings that mean nothing, yet are realized by our brain to be “in acceptance” of this world. So when you get to the living room, you are not surprised by the rather comical yet deeply disturbing sight of your daughter playing chess with the upright sitting family cat who, by the way, seems to have the upper hand at this point in time.

WHAT ???

Your cat? The cat, although winning at the moment, has obviously been misled about the role of felines in a domesticated society.

But what if you had expected that also? What if chess-playing cats were an everyday sight? Then you wouldn’t have been so surprised when you saw your little pet take your daughters queen with her rook. But even worse, what if you didn’t expect either one? What if you had no idea how anything acted or reacted to any situation at all. Or that the World around you, although the same, didn’t follow the same rules or lawsanymore. Like being on a new planet, not knowing anything about it. You would have to expect to see green aliens as well as red ones. You would have no past experience in that realm and therefor nothing to use as a guide.

Better yet, what if you could change the world at your own pleasure. What if you could make the world around you bend to your liking. Better still, what if it changed through a subconscious level, so you wouldn’t have to actually think something yourself for it to be as true as the World we live in.

What if this made up World that you create was real, and when you visit, you might as well be in our world, because both are equally as real. Like Dreaming. When you dream you don’t say, “I’m dreaming so this isn’t real”, you react to the dream as if it were real. That’s what I’m getting at, a World of dreaming, only, your wide awake.

Psychologically, perception is viewed as the process of organizing and interpreting sensory information, enabling one to recognize meaningful objects and events. This can basically occur through two different processes: top-down processing and bottom-up processing.
Bottom-up processing is the type that begins with the senses and then is organized into a coherent picture in the brain. Top-down processing, however, is made by having the higher-level processing in the brain interpret information based on expectations and past experiences. This type of processing can result in misperceptions and illusions. While this is a drawback of top-down processing, it is much faster than bottom-up processing and is useful in the day-to -day functioning of the person.
Although the term perception is difficult to define, we all have an intuitive notion of what is meant by it. For the sake of this writeup we can take perception to mean the human interpretation of and reaction to stimuli. While certainly each of us responds to stimuli differently, experiments have shown that, to a large extent, we all have logarithmic perception. Logarithmic perception is the topic of this writeup.

Before I scare those who aren't mathematically inclined, let me give a simple description of the logarithm. The most important effect of the logarithm is to take numbers that are spread out over many orders of magnitude and bring them closer to eachother. Consider the following table:

   Number                Log(number)

       10                     1
      100                     2
    1,000                     3
   10,000                     4
  100,000                     5
1,000,000                     6          

The chart above is for the "log base 10." It is defined such that log10x is the number y with the property that 10y = x.

Usually we consider the difference between one million and ten to be quite large. On a linear scale the ratio between one million and ten is 100,000. Notice, however, that on a logarithmic scale one million is only "six times" ten.

So what does "logarithmic perception" mean? Well, suppose the numbers in the lefthand column of the chart above are measures of some stimulus. Let's suppose they are the amplitudes of sound waves in some arbitrary unit system. Psychological studies have repeatedly shown that our perception of the "loudness" of the sound is proportional to the logarithm of the amplitude. For example, we perceive the difference in loudness between sound waves with amplitudes 100 and 10 to be equal to the difference between sound waves with amplitudes 1,000,000 and 100,000. Our perception of loudness (which is purely mental) is a logarithmic function of sound wave amplitude (which is a real physical entity). It is for this reason that the most common unit for measuring loudness is the decibel, which is proportional to the logarithm of sound wave amplitude. A difference of one decibel (dB) corresponds to the minimum change in loudness that the typical human ear can discern.

We just discussed the fact that constant ratios of sound wave amplitudes correspond to constant differences in perception of loudness. One way to define what we mean by logarithmic perception could be just that--constant ratios of the magnitude of physical stimuli produce constant differences in our perception of them.

Let's examine another perceived property of sound--pitch. We're all familiar with musical scales. In particular, we know that a note sounds "the same" as the note an octave below it and an octave above it. Although we perceive a slight difference between middle C and the C one octave higher, they're "the same note." The pitch we hear (a purely mental entity) is related to the frequency of oscillation of the sound waves (a real physical entity). It turns out that a rise of one octave corresponds to a doubling of the frequency of the sound wave. As an example, sound waves with frequencies of 220Hz, 440Hz, and 880Hz (1Hz means one oscillation per second) are the note A at progressively higher octaves. Notice that the ratio of frequencies between octaves remains constant at 2. Constant ratios correspond to constant differences on the logarithmic scale. Like our perception of loudness, our perception of pitch is logarithmic. Why some chords and melodies are beautiful, sad, or triumphant is a fascinating question that I don't think has been completely answered! Actually human perception of sound is rather fascinating and I plan to add a writeup on that subject.

The law of logarithmic perception holds quite generally (within sensible constraints--obviously a sound wave with amplitude so great that it results in death is not "15 times as strong" as the sound wave that results from a man rudely slurping his coffee). In optics, studies have shown that perceived brightness is a logarithmic function of light's luminance. A website listing animation principles suggests that the eye's perception of motion is logarithmic, not linear (see Studies involving the perception of the weight of blocks in one's hand have shown that the weight is perceived logarithmically. Many researchers have even suggested that human perception of time is a logarithmic function of age, which would explain why older people perceive that years are getting shorter. I personally think this is a misuse of the word "perception" but it speaks to the general acceptance and validity of the law of logarithmic perception.

What I've been calling the "law of logarithmic perception" has a more common name--the Weber-Fechner Law. Ernst Weber and Gustav Fechner independently arrived at the law in the middle of the nineteenth century. Today, researchers in psychophysics still use the Weber-Fechner Law as an approximation, but have developed more detailed models of perception.

Why is it that our brains perceive stimuli logarithmically? It seems to me that our perception evolved to allow us to perceive a wide range of stimuli using a finite number of neurons. Our brains can make sense of both whispers and ambulance sirens. While we have difficulty discerning subtle changes in stimuli amplitudes, our abilities to make sense of wide ranges of stimuli amplitudes more than offset that limitation.

In addition to being a worldview, a psychological malfunction, a subjective experience, and a generally ill-defined term, Perception is the name of a simple yet addictive board game put out by Ideal Games in 1971. Unfortunately, the game is out of print. Fear not! You do not actually need the board game or the pieces to play, as I will explain.


On a sheet of paper, draw a rectangular grid of 1-inch squares measuring 3 columns by seven rows. Be sure to make the fourth row bold.

Now take up the collection plate and get 4 pennies, 4 nickels, and 4 dimes. These will be your playing pieces. Alternatively, if you have interesting tokens or POGs (Remember POGs? They're back. In POG form!) you want to play with, by all means do so.

Each player places one penny, one nickel, and one dime in their respective starting row of the board. Make sure the pieces are aligned properly - that the dime is across from the dime, the nickel across from the nickel, penny to penny. They then keep one penny, one nickel, and one dime each in their hand.

Starting Diagram

|P| | | | | |P|
|N| | | | | |N|
|D| | | | | |D|

How To Play

Player 1 goes first. They pick either the penny, nickel, or dime from their hand and hide it in one hand. Player 2 then guesses which piece the other player selected. If they are wrong, Player 1 moves that piece forward one space towards the middle. If Player 2 is right, Player 1 moves no pieces and it is now Player 2's turn to select a piece.

A round ends when two pieces (of either side) have reached the middle row. Each player then scores as follows: 1 point for each piece that reached the scoring row, and -1 point for each piece still in its starting position. The pieces are then reset, and another round begins. The first player to 5 points wins.


At first, you may be thinking this game is simply a guessing game. You are so very, very wrong. First, there is a lot of basic strategy involved. Take the following position:

| | |P| | | |P|
|N| | | |N| | |
|D| | | | | |D|

(We will assume it is always Player 2's - the player on the right - turn to guess Player 1's - the player on the left - hidden piece.)

Is it in the best interest of Player 1 to guarantee a point by selecting his penny? Or should he try to avoid losing 2 points by moving his nickel or dime off of its starting position? To complicate things further:

| | |P| | |P| |
| |N| | |N| | |
|D| | | | | |D|

Player 1 has successfully moved his nickel, and Player 2 has moved his penny. Does Player 1 score with his penny? Does he put his nickel on the 2nd row and attempt to block Player 2 placing his nickel in the scoring row? Does he move his dime off the starting line? A final position:

| | |P| | |P| |
| | |N| |N| | |
|D| | | | | |D|

Player 1 has moved his nickel and adroitly blocked Player 2's attempt to move his nickel into the scoring row. Now does he try to move his own nickel in, laying waste to Player 2's moves thus far? Does he move his penny in, gaining 1 point, and then block Player 2's dime, ensuring a 0-0 stalemate if Player 2 chose his nickel? Does he move his dime off and then block the nickel to force an equal position showdown of will?

Needless to say, I am way too hooked on this game to speak about it without drooling.

This game is an excellent way to exploit other's flaws: are they often careless? Too cautious? Do they prefer things quick, or are they thoughtful? Do they seem duplicitous, or too trustworthy? Soon, the game leaves the simple paper playing field and becomes a mental war of which there can only be one victor.

The Ideal Games version has a spiffy psychedelic cover, suggesting that the ingestion of certain "wacky weeds" might lead to an even cooler game than thought possible. This is left as an exercise to the gamer.

Per*cep"tion (?), n. [L. perceptio: cf. F. perception. See Perceive.]


The act of perceiving; cognizance by the senses or intellect; apperhension by the bodily organs, or by the mind, of what is presented to them; discernment; apperhension; cognition.

2. Metaph.

The faculty of perceiving; the faculty, or peculiar part, of man's constitution by which he has knowledge through the medium or instrumentality of the bodily organs; the act of apperhending material objects or qualities through the senses; -- distinguished from conception.

Sir W. Hamilton.

Matter hath no life nor perception, and is not conscious of its own existence. Bentley.


The quality, state, or capability, of being affected by something external; sensation; sensibility.


This experiment discovereth perception in plants. Bacon.


An idea; a notion.


Sir M. Hale.

⇒ "The word perception is, in the language of philosophers previous to Reid, used in a very extensive signification. By Descartes, Malebranche, Locke, Leibnitz, and others, it is employed in a sense almost as unexclusive as consciousness, in its widest signification. By Reid this word was limited to our faculty acquisitive of knowledge, and to that branch of this faculty whereby, through the senses, we obtain a knowledge of the external world. But his limitation did not stop here. In the act of external perception he distinguished two elements, to which he gave the names of perception and sensation. He ought perhaps to have called these perception proper and sensation proper, when employed in his special meaning."

Sir W. Hamilton.


© Webster 1913.

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