Difference Between Conceptual and Perceptual

Conceptual vs Perceptual


 Although the two terms Conceptual and Perceptual refer to cognitive processes, there are a number of differences between them. In order to comprehend different phenomenon of the society and the world at large, both processes are used. The term perceptual comes from perception. It involves the ability of an individual to be aware of his surrounding through the senses. Conceptual, on the other hand, comes from concepts or else abstract ideas. It is difficult to understand conceptual knowledge as it involves more abstract ideas, unlike perceptual knowledge that is very straightforward. Though there are proponents of both conceptual as well as perceptual cognition, there is an overwhelming majority of thinkers who say that we perceive things through our eyes before we can move forward to conceptual thinking. This highlights that the key differences between the two processes stem from perceptual knowledge relying on our senses, whereas conceptual knowledge is relying on our previous learning. This article attempts to provide an understanding of each term while emphasizing the differences between the two.

What is Conceptual?

As we grow up, we acquire new concepts and abstract ideas through learning. This can be both natural as well as what is taught at school and afterward. This learning of abstract ideas and connections between concepts gives rise to conceptual cognition. This acquires a higher level than perceptual knowledge because it is stimulated by the learning of the individual. For an example, let us take the concept of the solar system. Through perception, we can only go up to a certain limit. This is because there is the condition of the senses. But, in conceptual knowledge, the learning assist the individual to go far beyond that. Let us take another example. A child in a dark room is not fearful while an adult is. This is because of our learning and association between dark and many evil things. Concepts such as ghosts are all internalized to us through our formal and informal learning. Thus, we tend to link the particular incident with our previously gained knowledge. In psychology, this is referred to as ‘priming’. A child only perceives because he has not internalized the knowledge yet. So other than the obvious perceptual knowledge the child has no reason to fear. On the other hand, an adult both perceives as well as conceives imaginary creatures. However, the differences between perception and conception are not so easy and well delineated as they seem, and there are always areas of confusion between sensation and conceptualization.

Difference Between Conceptual and Perceptual - What is Conceptual

What is Perceptual?

Now let us pay attention to the term perceptual. The word perceptual comes from perception, and we perceive the world through what we see around us. This can simply be understood as making sense of the world around us through our senses. This entails our vision, hearing, smell, taste, and even touch. A child first gains an understanding of the world through perceptual knowledge. For an example, by seeing a tree, a dog, a man, the child begins to identify each and categorize.  Unlike conceptual learning, this does not rely on the acquisition of formal and informal learning, but solely on the awareness of the person. There is no denying the fact that both perceptual and conceptual processes go into our brain. With advances in our knowledge about the way our brain performs, we now know that conceptual and perceptual memory processes are performed by different brain parts. The very fact, that we humans have a well developed brain capable of thinking, means that all our perception requires interpretation. This is because if what we see does not make sense to us, we might feel perplexed and totally confused. Normally we differentiate between what we perceive and what we conceptualize by the responses made by us. Only humans are blessed to conceptualize while lower organisms can only perceive.

Difference Between Conceptual and Perceptual - What is Perceptual

What is the Difference Between Conceptual and Perceptual?

  • Perceptual and conceptual refer to our cognitive processes.
  • Perceptual pertain to all responses made by us on the basis of perception or sensation.
  • Conceptualization is an attribute that only we humans are blessed with.
  • Conceptual and perceptual processes go on inside our brain simultaneously, though by different parts.

Image Courtesy:

1.The_new_Solar_System by The International Astronomical Union/Martin Kornmesser [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2.800px-Bright_green_tree_-_Waikato by Floyd Wilde from Cambridge, New Zealand (00027) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

  • SP

    How do we know only humans are blessed with conceptual skills while animals only with perceptual skills?