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Representing the basic component in the mechanism of forming new concepts, perception is the process of becoming aware of something by use of the senses.
Conscious experience that results from stimulation of the senses.
[Goldstein, 2005]

[…] since the purpose of perception is to rapidly understand our surroundings. Once this is done, if the scene is not perceived to have changed, features of the scene should not need to be re-encoded.
[Healey, 2004]

Perception is our "window to the world" that enables us to experience what is "out there" in our environment. Thus, perception is the first step in the process that eventually results in all of our cognitions. Paying attention, forming and recalling memories, using language, and reasoning and solving problems all depend--right at the beginning--on perception. Without perception, these processes would be absent or greatly degraded. Therefore it is accurate to say that perception is the gateway to cognition.
[Goldstein, 2005]

In spite of their similarity, sensation and perception must not be confused: While sensations are simple sensory experiences, percepts are complex constructions of simple elements joined through association. Perception therefore doesn't only describe a kind of recognition, but necessarily includes interpretation and understanding — to the extend possible due to specific contextual knowledge — of sensory experiences.