perception definition

My Biggest Mistake with “Perception” and “Percept”: How to Use Them Right

Perception is a great word. Besides “the ability to see and hear” it also means a way in which something is understood or interpreted.

Let’s look at some examples:

Dopamine and Serotonin Play Key Role in Perception and Cognition (action or process of acquiring knowledge), Study Finds.  (ability to see and hear)


Study of 2020 Protests Shows Difference Between Reality and Perception.  (a way people see or interpret something)

My Biggest Mistake with "Perception" and "Percept": How to Use Them Right

I like your perception of the whole COVID thing. (a way people see or interpret something)

It’s a cool, advanced level word.

It’s pronounced as /pərˈsɛpʃən/ in American English. In the British version the R is omitted /pəˈsep.ʃən/. The stress is on the second syllable in both dialects: pə(r)ˈsɛpʃən

And it sounds much cooler than simple “understanding”. I often use the word perception when speaking about the different types of mentality and differences between people from various cultures.

For instance:
My perception of the USA is different from Americans’ perception of their culture.

So, I liked to use this word and I did it quite often.

But at some point, I wanted to tell about perception using a verb and I found nothing better than just use the word “percept”. And I pronounced it as pərˈsɛpt stressing the second syllable.?

I was thinking if we can say translation (n) – translate (v) or interpretation (n) – interpret (v), we can say perception – percept.

It turned out that we can’t.

Percept: meaning

Although the word ‘percept’ does exist in English (thank God!) BUT it’s not a verb but a noun and it’s pronounced differently. The stress is on the first syllable in American English and on the second syllable in the British version. (Here you can listen to both).

Percept /ˈpɜrsɛpt/ has two meanings:

– an object of perception
– a mental concept that is developed as a consequence of the process of perception.

Let’s look at some examples:

“…. this is an ambiguous visual percept.” (an object of perception)

Do you see a duck or a rabbit?

“So your brain is very good at merging what we receive, the view from the outside word from each eye, and merges them together to give our percept of the world.” (perception)

“Individuals claim they were lip-reading a vague visual percept but could not clearly see a face…” (voice hallucinations, an object of perception)

“So the invitation is to see if you can be with a percept without getting caught in your liking or disliking of the percept.” (an object of perception)

As you can see there’s no way to use “precept” as a verb.

So, what’s the right verb for perception?

Let’s get back to our first example.

Dopamine and serotonin play a key role in perception and cognition, the study finds.

It’s actually the title of the article. And if we start reading the article we’ll see which verb we can use to describe the perception.

perceive in a sentence

“Dopamine and serotonin — two brain chemicals involved in reward processing and whose pathways are treatment targets for diseases such as Parkinson’s — also play a key role in controlling the way people perceive the world and make decisions based on those perceptions.”  

Yes, it’s “perceive” /pərˈsiv/ in American English; the R is omitted in the British version /pəˈsiːv/.

It has several meanings and one of them is “to have an opinion or a belief about something.”

Here’re more examples with “perceive” in a sentence:

How do the French perceive the British?

Actresses and actors are often perceived to be superficial.

How to Use ‘Perception’ in a Sentence [Examples from Youglish]:

(So you can shadow them)

“In ordinary waking states, we cannot perceive the passing of the moment. And so this perception, this… “

“their partner the way that other people perceive them..”

“I’ve mentioned before that the way you perceive something makes or breaks you.”

“I don’t perceive what I’m drawing as ice or water.”

“Nothing in our experience actually exists outside of our perception of it, our cognition, … You know, the world as it actually might ontologically bear no relation to the way in which we perceive it.” 

(here’s the link for practice these sentences)

“… started to experiment with altering their perception using psychedelic, i.e mind-manifesting drugs.”

” …it expands our horizons, it transforms our perception, it opens our minds and it touches our heart.”

“… feeling, a perception that people don’t have full control over a rapidly changing world.”

“First is perception, so how do you look at this situation, ..”

“And that perception has been changing over the last few years in the direction of more ignorance.”

“I don’t perceive what I’m drawing as ice or water.”

(here’s the link for practice these sentences)

Okay, that’s it for this week. Let me know in the comments if you made the same mistake with percept and perception or with any other tricky couple of English words. And of course, I’m waiting for your own sentences with any of these three words. 

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2 thoughts on “My Biggest Mistake with “Perception” and “Percept”: How to Use Them Right

  1. Hi Vika, thank you very much, I don’t remember myself struggling with percept, maybe because is a word beyond the kind of words that I tend to use in English, and for me is new. Here my example: When it comes to pronunciation, perceive your own mispronunciation is a key to move your English to the next level, in my case the perception is quite poor, someone else must be the one that identifies the percept. Have a nice week and thank you for the vocabulary.

  2. Hey Karina, thank you for the comment! Glad you find it useful) Excellent example sentence!

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