2.4 The Importance of Visual Perception in Cognitive Processes
Definitions and Introduction
Paying attention, categorization, memorization and acquisition of knowledge are all cognitive processes. Cognitive processes are cognitive activities that affect our mental content. For example, Billy memorizes the 50 states in alphabetical order by singing a song, and he can still recite it five years later. Therefore that proficiency has been added to Billy’s mental content, specifically his long-term memory.
Visual perception is vital in cognitive processing. Visual perception is the process of absorbing what one sees, organizing it in the brain, and making sense of it. One of the most common examples of visual perception’s importance in cognitive processes is reading. Looking at the words of a book and being able to make sense of the plot is visual perception at work. Difficulty in visual perception can cause problems with cognitive processes. If Emma has difficulty making sense of the words in her book, she will also have difficulty recalling what happened when she is tested on the book in school.
Visual Perception Benefit to Cognitive Processes
There are many different cognitive processes. In this section, we will review how the cognitive processes of attention, learning, perception, memory, and discrimination are all aided by skills in visual perception.
What is one of the first things that children must master when they begin school? Paying attention. Attention is a cognitive process. Being able to focus and pay attention is the foundation of learning, as one must focus on the subject–for example, the ABCs–in order to retain it. The visual perception skill of visual attention is what allows us to cut out distractions in the environment in order to focus on what is important. For example, a child with poor visual perception might not be able to focus on the teacher if there is a colorful bulletin board and ticking clock also within eyesight.
Learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, is a cognitive process that becomes more difficult with poor visual perception. It was mentioned earlier that deficits in visual perception can make it difficult to make sense of what one reads. Deficits in visual perception can also make it hard to tell the difference between foreground and background–also known as figure ground skills in visual perception–like seeing white letters on a chalkboard in school or distinguishing between the black letters on the white background on a page in a book. Considering that reading is one of the main ways that we acquire knowledge, it is evident how important visual processing is to learning.
Perception is how we draw conclusions from sensory experiences. Two people may perceive the same sensory experience differently. Imagine two people walk into a restaurant and one person smells pumpkin pie while the other smells fresh baked biscuits. It turns out they are both right as the chef is cooking a Thanksgiving feast. Our perception of things can be altered by our interests, past experiences, personality, and personal characteristics.
Yet, for someone with poor visual perception, something that they see may lead them to a completely inaccurate conclusion. This is because poor visual perception can lead a person to be unable to make sense of what they see. To illustrate this further, we can look at the visual perception skill of visual closure, which allows a person to draw a conclusion on what an object is without seeing the entire object. A person with good visual perception can see the tail of a cat behind a couch and perceive that animal to be a cat. A person with poor visual perception may see the tail but not have the ability to identify the animal as a cat.
One of the skills of visual perception is visual memory. It entails being able to recall letters, words or numbers that one has just seen. A child with poor visual memory might have difficulty remembering sight words. A middle-schooler may have to look up at the marker board many times to copy down notes because she cannot retain in her visual memory a couple sentences at a time. This is why visual memory is so important in the cognitive process of memory.
Visual perception skills include form and visual discrimination, and a deficit in these skills can lead to problems with the cognitive process of discrimination. Discrimination is exactly what it sounds like. It is the ability to differentiate between two or more things. A person with poor visual perception may not be able to discriminate between different shapes, colors, letters, numbers or words that look similar. For example, Emily is having difficulty in her spelling test because she can’t tell the difference between three of her vocabulary words: run, ran and runt.
Visual perception is the process of absorbing what one sees, organizing it in the brain, and making sense of it. With poor visual perception, we would have significant deficits in many cognitive processes or cognitive activities that affect our mental content. These deficits could significantly impact learning. Visual perception can affect the cognitive processes of attention, learning, memory, perception, and discrimination.