An Experiment about Perceptual Sets Essay

An Experiment about Perceptual Sets

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In this beautiful, and at the same time, challenging world we have, there is no single thing that really remains constant. Everything indeed changes. Temperature, economy, politics, education, health, sports, entertainment, news and any other things experience change. The color of the sky, the grade a student receives, height, weight, pressure – everything really changes. And the change itself is also changing. Even the past also changes. Since the past can not really be directly studied, our past can also be changed. What we are studying is not the past, but the relics and records of that particular past. And those relics can appear differently to different people. What may be true to you about a certain picture of the past, can be the opposite thing for another person’s perspectives. Given for example a picture which was picked from a bunch of evidences and relics about a certain event in the past, which projected a man holding a knife on his hands, a bloody kid directly after the man and a wounded dog beside the kid, this picture can mean and tell so many stories. Two brief messages it will send to its lookers can be the man killed the kid with his knife and the dog got wounded as it tried to save his master kid. Another event that can be formed is an irony. It can converse that the man tried to save the kid from the rabid dog but his rescue to the kid has been late. These are just some of the evident manifestations of this particular and epidemic change. A religious people may present a contradiction and exception to this idea. He may claim that there is still a thing that does not change. And that is the undying love of God. But I would like to correct that. Yes, God’s love is undying but his love also changes. In each and everyday of our lives, God loves us more and more.

I think the gist is that, there is really nothing that is permanent. Everything is indeed changing such as people’s perceptions towards different things. What one’s eyes see can not be seen by other people’s eyes. And what other people can feel may not be felt by the other one. These all lead to the definition of Perceptual Set, in which stereotyping is one of its forms.

Perceptual set is the state of having different views towards a certain common thing. One can see it as a sign of money, while the other one can see it as a symbol of threatening and disastrous events. The interpretation entirely lies on the eyes of the lookers, their status in life, their needs, their wants, their fears. There are a lot of factors. The difference arises thereafter these different people express what they feel and what they see.

 As what Walter Lippmann’s conception of stereotype perceptual set conveys, it is really about definition of something before we actually see it. We all evolved from a baby, wherein we do not know yet any single thing in our environment. We did not even know why we call the closest girl in our side those times as mother and we were not even aware of what she actually looked like. In other words, even before we see the light, a lot of things were already set and defined in our minds. The people around us baptized us with so many definitions and terms that we were not even able to see even a silhouette of the actual images of one of those things. We were trained to say meow whenever an older cousin talked to us and asked about the sound produced by a cat knowing that we did not even know what a cat really was. We are obliged to perceive things as what we were told about them. We were forced to stick in a particular view towards that very thing when in fact, if we were just given the chance to see it first, perhaps we could have been arguing with the way we call and perceive it. There must have been a difference with the perceptions made which later formed the perceptual set.

Brent Staple has been a very timid guy. When he was a still a kid, he has been with a half dozen fistfights but he was known as a good boy in their locality. He was scarcely noticeable against backdrop of gang warfare, street knifings and murders. As he grew up and move to Chicago, he has developed a hobby of walking on the streets almost every night. He usually walked on the streets with his hands on the pockets of his jacket, mysteriously making his footfalls. Different people kept on looking at him and consciously taking a distance from him as he formed a threat to them, unintentionally.  Due to his color and street uncommon behaviors, he was always stereotyped as a hold-upper, rapist or even worse.  He was always misunderstood by the people around him. He has been alleged of so many wrong and suspicious doings, which he did not really execute even once. He has been run after by the police because of the threat his appearance and manner looked to the other people. There was even times when he was in a hurry to submit his paper works when he was accused of being a spy, sometimes a stalker and some other misconceptions. The stereotype formed about him indeed affected him a lot. There have been so many work chances and accomplishments he missed because of being accused and later arrested by the police officers. Those stereotypes affected his life badly. He always appeared to be a criminal to the people when in fact he was a very benign gentleman, a very hard-working and sensitive observant man. Those perceptions of people towards him affected the way he felt about his existence. All those misconceptions brought perilous flavors. His shyness has become even more and it was even more triggered every time he noticed some one creating huge steps away from him because of a certain fear.

Stereotyping has never caused significant positive results so far to Brent Staple. There may be good effect that he could try being more open to his behaviors but that can not still be considered a direct effect derived from stereotypes. That can be considered an implied good effect of it

So as this perceptual set and stereotyping thingy appear so important and relevant to know, a simple investigation will be conducted and discovered in this paper. This will be a psychology experiment tackling in utmost importance the perceptual set that may arise upon the utilization of young woman- old woman pictures.

Three young woman- old woman pictures will be subjected to analysis and interpretations to sixteen different people aged 18 and above. They will be exposed to expressing their perceptions towards those pictures that will be shown to them. They will be identifying some images that they will possibly see from the pictures. Also, they will be asked whether or not they see an old or young woman on the visuals. Most importantly, they will be inquired if they did see the perceptual set or not and how did they say so.

Some of the expectations of the proponent of this investigative paper is that the subjects of the experiment will be giving distinct answers. They will be enumerating distinct images that they will possibly see from the pictures. They will be expressing different meanings of the pictures for them. Some may have a common perception and interpretation towards the picture but most of the subjects, eight to ten will be able to see and flaunt the perceptual set on the young woman-old woman pictures they will be subjected to look into and do interpretations.


The psychology experiment will be participated in by sixteen subjects. They should be aged eighteen and above. More importantly, the subjects must be educated enough to understand and follow the instructions correctly.

They will be exposed and subjected to different pictures. Pictures will be labeled C, B, A – the old woman’s picture, the young woman’s picture and the ambiguous picture respectively. All the sixteen subjects will be asked certain questions about what they see in the pictures and what their interpretations are.

Each subject will see and interpret a total of two pictures only. Eight subjects should see the old woman picture (picture C) and the other eight subjects should see the young woman picture (picture B). On the other hand, all of them must see the ambiguous picture (picture A).

After showing the pictures to the subjects, questions will be asked thereafter.

The actual process of the experiment will appear this way.

“I am going to show you the pictures of two women. I just want you to look at the pictures quickly and give me your first impression of whether the picture is a young woman or an old woman. There are no right or wrong answers, so do not worry of being correct. Are you ready? Here is the first picture. Please answer me quickly. Is she young or old?”

The respondents must be very quick in giving their impression to get the most effective result in this experiment.  Also, the subjects will be treated under the experiment separately and privately to come up with a very solid, valid and distinct responses. Most importantly, the subjects must not have seen and familiarized with the pictures before.



1. Colleen               20 years old                           Student                                 College

– Colleen saw the old woman first and still saw the old woman next. As predicted, she saw the perceptual set. The moment she saw the pictures, she showed similar expression towards the pictures. That provided strong evidence that she saw the perceptual set.

2. Vanessa              20 years old                           Student                                 College

– Vanessa saw the young woman first and the old one next. Contrary to the expectation, she did not saw the perceptual set. Maybe, she put on her mind just before she saw the pictures that she would be seeing an old and a young woman as they were the two options given to her upon showing her the two pictures.

3. Paula                   23 years old               Human Ecology teacher              College Grad

– Paula saw the young woman first and still the young woman next. Therefore, she saw the perceptual set. Probably, her teaching career experiences contributed to her interpretation.

4. Richard               21 years old                            Student                                College

– Richard saw the young woman first and still the young woman on the second. He was able to see the perceptual set. His facial expression proved it more.

5. Grace                  18 years old             Online English Tutor/ Student           College

– Grace saw the old woman first and still the old woman thereafter. Her non verbal quick reaction towards the pictures as if she was tracing the similarities in a short time concluded that she really saw the perceptual set.

6. Liam                   19 years old                           Student                                 College

– Liam was not able to saw the perceptual set. He saw the old woman first and the young woman next. He was even showing uncertainty in giving his required quick answer.

7. Alfred                 19 years old                           Student                                 College

– Alfred successfully saw the perceptual set. He saw the old woman first and still the old woman on the next picture. His confident smile proved his certainty with the answer.

8. Rei                       18 years old            Online English Tutor/ Student           College

– Rei also saw the perceptual set. Though he was really quite mysterious prior to the experiment, he appeared not upon giving his answer. He saw the young woman on the first and second pictures.

9. Edsel                   18 years old                           Student                                 College

– Edsel unfortunately did not see the perceptual set. He saw the young woman first and the old woman on the second. His doubtful and raising voice added to his uncertainty.

10. Glemuel             18 years old                          Student                                 College

– Glemuel failed to see the perceptual set. He saw the young woman first and the old woman next. His submissive personality added to his own pressure upon giving his interpretation.

11. Harold                25 years old                          Dentist                             College Grad

– Opposite to the prediction, Mr. Dentist, Harold did not see the perceptual set. According to him, the first picture was an old woman and the next was a young woman.

12. Julius                  29 years old                          Engineer                          College Grad

– This engineer was also not able to see the perceptual set. He said the first picture depicted an old woman and the next was a young woman. Probably his proud profession has already covered up his other perceptions just as the dentist.

13. McNeil               18 years old                          Student                                College

–  As predicted, McNeil saw the perceptual set. He saw the young woman on the first picture and still the young woman on the next. His monotonous facial reaction towards the picture proved that he saw the perceptual set.

14. Lea                     35 years old                        Politician                            College Grad

– In accordance with the predicted outcome, Lea saw the perceptual set. Her confident way of giving her answer that she saw the old woman on both pictures implied that she really the set.

15. Michael             23 years old               Computer Science teacher           College Grad

– Another fruit of the prediction was Mr. ComSci teacher. According to him, he saw an old woman on the two pictures. He definitely saw the perceptual set.

16. Bob                    25 years old           Computer Science teacher               College Grad

– Mr. Bob also saw the perceptual set. He saw young woman on both pictures.

I think some of the subjects were not able to see the perceptual set because they focused more on the great possibility that what they were about to see would just be an old woman whether on the first picture or in the second. Their attention I think was concentrated on the order where the two options would appear.

On the other hand, nine of the subjects were able to see the perceptual set because they were greatly influenced of the first image they saw on the first picture presented to them. The image remained on their mind thus it caused an influence of resemblance to the next picture.

“I saw an old woman on the pictures. She was quite happy. I think I saw the perceptual set because I focused on the image shown by the pictures. I was influenced by the first picture”, said Colleen.

“I saw on the first picture a young woman facing the other side. I was able to see only half of her face as she looked very timid to face the camera or the painter perhaps. I was not able to see the set, probably because I was expecting that the two pictures were two different things. I became fixed to that belief I guess. Now I know what the experiment is about. Thank you. I learned from it. It was very informative at the same time”, said Vanessa.

Upon asking Paula on what she can say about the experiment, she answered, “It was great! I never thought it would be in that way! It was fun. I saw different things on a just single piece of picture paper. I was greatly influenced by the first picture which displayed a young beautiful woman. . The activity was very interesting, may be I will also do some activities like this in one of my classes where this theme will fit.”

“I found the experiment good. Actually, I have already encountered almost similar activity in our psychology class last semester. But honestly, I was not able to get along with that activity. I did not even know how they saw such images when I did not see any, considering that we were all presented by the same set of pictures. I think this one appeared more interesting. This helped me improve my visualization. I was influenced greatly by the first picture so I saw the same young woman on both pictures, “answered Richard.

 Being interviewed after the experiment Grace said, “It was great! It was fun! I enjoyed with the experiment. I saw a lot of images. I saw an old woman in two different positions upon subjected to just one of the pictures. One was an old woman having a long pointed chin, her eye and nose were prettily bigger and at the same time, in that particular same picture, the other one was an old woman projecting elegantly for a side view take. It was really interesting to look at! Many ideas formed in my mind! I enjoyed it! I maybe too amazed with the first picture that it influenced the way I saw the second one. Certain resemblance between the two was created in my mind.”

“At first, honestly I did not really get what this activity was implying but after hearing your explanations, I think I know now what perceptual set is all about. Though I was not able to see it on the experiment, I enjoy the fact that this instance leads me to discovering such ideas”, Liam uttered.

“Yes, I definitely found the experiment very interesting. Who would have thought that it would be in that way? It was really good. I saw an old woman on both pictures whose body seemed in a slouching manner. I even saw another face on the back of her entire face. I saw a lot of things. I think I was able to see all those because my open- mindedness was triggered more by the continuing ideas flowing within the picture itself”, answered Alfred.

Rei answered, “The experiment was an absolutely interesting one. It enabled me to look beyond what the eyes can see. It induced me to apply imagination in tackling with the pictures. I saw young woman on both pictures. The woman was magnificently projecting for a pose. Even the dress she was wearing appeared to me as a wild animal with rough feathers. My imagination was really activated”.

Edsel on the other hand was quite not satisfied at first, let’s listen to his reaction, “Well at first I was really finding hard time getting and absorbing the point this experiment was trying to impart to me. I even kept frowning as I did not really get what the experiment was about. I saw a young woman on the first picture and an old woman on the next. So what? Well then I think I must thank you for explaining to me what this perceptual set is all about. I think I get it now. It is when a person’s judgment or view towards the next thing he sees becomes influenced by the first thing which registered to him at once. Do I get it right? I hope so.”

Glemuel was also uncertain about the experiment. But after I had explained to him what the experiment was primarily about, he became enlightened. “Ah. Okay. I see. Well if that’s the case, then this experiment must be indeed an interesting one. How I wish I was able to see the set. I just really saw a young woman on the first picture and an old woman on the next. I saw none aside from those. I think I need more experiments of this kind to enhance more my perception, visualization and imagination towards different things.”

Mr. Dentist on the other hand was also surprised with result of the experiment. He admitted that he felt shame with his performance. Let’s pay attention to this, “I really feel ashamed that I was not able to see the set. I was older than these students by few years but I never really saw such things as they did. Well I guess, another thing was also applied here, something which can be true to one person, can be the opposite to the next. But then again, I am still grateful for your explanations regarding the perceptual set. I learned a lot. I wish I will do better whenever I encounter in the future an experiment similar to this. I am looking forward to see more than the old and young women I saw here.”

“I am so delighted that beyond my awareness, I was able to see the set! This activity was really interesting. I was able to see an old woman on the first picture and the same old woman on the next. I think the image I perceived on the first picture dwelled on my mind which made me saw the next one as the same old woman”, Mr. Engineer said.

McNeil has a very positive view about the experiment. Take a look at this “The experiment was very fine. It played an important role in letting my mind think differently and far better than an ordinary mind can. More so, it challenged me to look at the pictures more critically while I was enjoying seeing different images as I looked at it deeply. It was definitely fun! I saw a young woman on the two pictures. I saw a young woman who appeared to be getting his paramour’s attention as she posed in a side view -as if there was a conflict that occurred that she was asking her lover to run after her more. I also saw a young woman who has a teardrop on her face. She seemed to be sad and hurt. A timid, submissive lady was also in the picture. Another was a slouching woman. On the other hand, there was also a proud woman with his shoulders set high. I really saw a lot of things. It was really an interesting activity. Very!”

“Very awesome the experiment was! I was able to see the perceptual set, though I was not aware that I did, until you informed me (laughs). I saw an old woman on the first picture and also an old woman on the next. I think the image I saw on the first picture reigned in my mind that though I was presented with the next picture, I was still seeing the first one in my mind. I was influenced with the first picture indeed”, exclaimed Lea.

“I have experienced more than what I was experiencing in our computer laboratories. I think your experiment was great! It was very interesting, informative and most importantly, enjoyable. It relaxed my mind for a while. It was like I had a break from having my lessons and go swimming. It refreshed my mind. Wow! I was able to see the set! I saw an old woman on both pictures. I even saw computational figures on the dress of the woman. There were some logic gates there (laughs) .It was really fun! I enjoyed a lot. Influence, resemblance and imagination were applied”, said Mr. ComSci teacher.

Last subject has also a lot to say. Let’s see his reaction. “The experiment was definitely interesting! It felt like I was placed in one of the coolest computer games. It was excellent! I saw the perceptual set! I saw young woman on the first and second pictures. I saw binary digits on her lips. It was fun!” Mr. Bob ended.


This experiment has been a successful one. It was able to emerge important and relevant things that we must be informed about. In utmost importance was the concept of Perceptual Set.

Perceptual set works when a particular person gets influenced in his judgment or view towards the next thing with his impressions on the first thing he sees. A definition has already been created on his mind even before he sees the next thing. He was already holding descriptions for the next event based on his first experience. Influence and resemblance really played a large role.

I learn from this experiment that there are really possibilities of pseudo and none pseudo assumptions, estimations and impressions towards things, – that just right before knowing a person, we already have assumptions about his personality. We already can create a story about his life just by looking at the way he dresses or the way he talks perhaps. These hold the same towards stereotyping – just the same with the stereotyping Brent Staple.

Perceptual set is really a timely, reasonable and interesting concept to study. It plays a very crucial role in determining how a certain person reacts to the things around him. Perceptual set is affected by different factors such as the characteristics of the individual – his personality, attitude, views, culture, beliefs, a lot of things.

Most importantly, this perceptual set enables us to be more open-minded. It triggers as to become more flexible, imaginative and wide thinkers.

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