Difference Between Sensing and Perceiving

Sensing vs Perceiving

The difference between sensing and perceiving lies in the way the information is processed. Sensing and Perceiving are two words mostly used in psychology regarding two different processes of the human brain. Sensation and perception are inter-related. Sensing is when the sensory organs absorb the information from the world outside. For example, notice all the things that we hear, see, smell, touch, and taste at this particular moment. These are all sensory information that floods our brain. Perceiving is when this sensory information is selected, organized, and interpreted. This highlights that sensing and perceiving are two different processes, although they complement one another. Through this article let us examine the differences between these two processes in depth.

What is Sensing?

Sensing or else the term sensation is used in psychology to denote the role played by sensory organs in absorbing the information from the outside world. This information can come in various forms. They can be images, sounds, tastes, smells, and even different textures. In the human body, there are mainly five sensory organs that allow us to capture all the information around us. Sensing can be considered as the first step where the individual is exposed to a lot of information.

For example, imagine you are waiting at the train station. Although you are not actively engaged in any specific work per say, your sensory organs are active. This is why you notice people walking about, the sound of the trains, the noise, the conversations of the people around you. Sensing allows us to experience the world around us. It makes us feel and enjoy the surrounding environment. Perceiving goes a step beyond this.

Difference Between Sensing and Perceiving

Smelling is one way of sensing

What is Perceiving?

Perceiving is when sensory information is selected, organized, and interpreted. To be more specific, the environment around us is filled with sensory information, through our senses we absorb this information. Perceiving is when the absorbed sensory information are interpreted with the assistance of the brain. In other words, it is equivalent to making sense of the world around us. For example, imagine a situation where you are about to cross the road. You use the sensory information as you look at both ways before crossing. In such an instance, you not only absorb the information but also interpret it as you decide whether to cross or not.

This highlights that unlike in the case of sensing where we merely absorb information, in perceiving, we not only make sense of the information but also try to interact with the surrounding environment. When speaking of psychology, perception has been a key area of study for Gestalt psychologists. They have been keenly interested in enhancing the theoretical knowledge of perception as a process.

 Sensing vs Perceiving

To cross a road, sensing should be followed by perceiving

What is the difference between Sensing and Perceiving?

Definitions of Sensing and Perceiving:

Sensing: Sensing is when the sensory organs absorb the information from the world outside.

Perceiving: Perceiving is when sensory information is selected, organized, and interpreted.

Characteristics of Sensing and Perceiving:


Sensing: Sensing is a passive process.

Perceiving: Perceiving is an active process.


Sensing and Perceiving are two processes that are interrelated and complement one another.


Sensing: Through sensing, we absorb the information around us.

Perceiving: Through perceiving, we interpret this information.


Images Courtesy:

  1. Smell by Dennis Wong (CC BY 2.0)
  2. Crossing the road by Sparragus (CC BY 2.0)