Sensation is the process of bringing information into the brain. Perception is how we use sensations into meaningful patterns. As we encounter a variety of events in our daily lives, the brain actively selects, organizes and integrates sensory information to create a picture of the world. Some of the perceptions are native or inborn and many other perceptions are a result of our past experiences.
Sensation is the stage where neural activity codes the information about nature of stimulation. Perception is the next stage in which an internal representation of an object is formed. This representation provides a working description of perceiver’s external environment. Perception involves synthesis of simple sensory features into percept of an object that can be recognized.
This helps in identification and recognition, and meaning is assigned to the percepts. Perception and recognition are combined processes that do not act separately. For example a circular object may be a cricket ball or orange.
Stages of Perception
The physical object in the world is called the distal stimulus (distant from the observer) and the optical image on the retina is called the proximal stimulus (proximate or near to observer). The major task of perception is to determine the distal stimulus based on information of proximal stimulus - to know what the world out there is "really like" using one’s imagination of mind.
There is more to perceiving which includes physical properties such as shape or size and past experiences.