The main function of perception is to ensure the integrity of perceived objects and events.

Before the perceived image is created the following processing of signal combinations received by the brain on a subconscious level occurs:

  • Comparisons with the past
  • Singling out of the integrity indication
  • Comparisons with urgent needs

Any combination of elements is put into some familiar category and recognized within this category. We see a table (instead of just a board on legs) because we have interacted with different tables in the past and it doesn’t matter how they appeared or in what way they were used; what matters is that they were tables.

A circle that was drawn with dots is indeed perceived as a circle and not just an organized number of dots. Connecting stimuli into a comprehensive whole by some indication or criterion happens automatically. Perception “adds” the missing parts to make the picture a whole by the integrity criterion chosen on a subconscious level. Therefore, we recognize the object even if we see just a part of it.

Necessary information is singled out while the information we don’t need is rejected. While walking down a busy street we may perceive as much information as we need in order to not bump into other people or objects (only the necessity of self-preservation is activated). We realize that a person passed to the right or to the left of us but we didn’t notice the color of their hair or their eyes. However, if we decide to count the number of blonde people on the street or look for friends, the results of our perception will change.

In compliance with these patterns a part of the stimuli is always combined into a figure in our perception. The rest serves as a background. A figure is something of great importance (the center of attention). A background is something minor (on the periphery of our attention). The singled-out figure is the image of objects and events which is the result of your perception.

The figure and background are dynamic. New stimuli enter the nervous system all the time and their comparison against the past, the singling out of the integrity indication, and it’s comparisons with urgent needs take place just as often. That’s why the things that make up the figure can become a part of the background, while some elements from the background can become part of the figure.

Thus, perception is connected with memory, thinking, emotions (as markers of needs and inducements), and attention.


Perception actively modifies the information received by sensory organs. The brain “decides” which elements received from the persistent flow of sensory organ stimulation will form a figure and what elements will be left in the background. There may be more modifications than is necessary. For instance, if you’re talking to a beautiful person their harmonious appearance may become the figure of your perception involuntarily as you pay less attention to the perception of what they are saying. Your perception makes the discussion content an image of “beauty and harmony.” In this case you may think that everything this person is saying is correct.