AskDefine | Define apperception

Dictionary Definition

apperception n : the process whereby perceived qualities of an object are related to past experience

User Contributed Dictionary



First used by Gottfried Leibnitz (1646-1716).


  1. In the context of "uncountable|psychology|and|philosophy|especially Kantianism": The mind's perception of itself as the subject or actor in its own states, unifying past and present experiences; perception that reflects upon itself.
  2. In the context of "countable|psychology": The general process or a particular act of mental assimilation of new experience into the totality of one's past experience.
  3. In the context of "uncountable|rare": Intensified or energetic perception.


  • "apperception" in Encarta® World English Dictionary [North American Edition] © & (P)2007 Microsoft Corporation.
  • "apperception" in Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911 ed.
  • Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed., 1989.
  • Random House Webster's Unabridged Electronic Dictionary, 1987-1996.
  • Dictionary of Philosophy, Dagobert D. Runes (ed.), Philosophical Library, 1962. See: "Apperception" by Otto F. Kkraushaar, p. 15.

Extensive Definition

Apperception (Latin ad + percipere, to perceive) has the following meanings:
  • In epistemology, it is "the introspective or reflective apprehension by the mind of its own inner states" (Ledger Wood in Runes).
  • In psychology, it is "the process by which new experience is assimilated to and transformed by the residuum of past experience of an individual to form a new whole" (Ledger Wood in Runes). In short, it is to perceive new experience in relation to past experience.
Example 1: We see a fire (visual perception). By apperception we correlate the appearance of fire with past experiences of being burned. Having combined present and past experience we realize this is a situation in which we should avoid placing our hand in the fire and being burned.
Example 2: A rich child and a poor child walking together come across the same ten dollar bill on the sidewalk. The rich child says it is not very much money and the poor child says it is a lot of money. The difference lies in how they apperceive the same event -- the lens of past experience through which they see and value (or devalue) the money.
  • In philosophy, Kant distinguished empirical apperception from transcendental apperception. The first is "the consciousness of the concrete actual self with its changing states", the so-called "inner sense". The second is "the pure, original, unchangeable consciousness which is the necessary condition of experience as such and the ultimate foundation of the synthetic unity of experience" (Otto F. Kraushaar in Runes). See Kantianism.
  • The eastern concept of the sanskara can also be looked upon as a form of apperception - seeing events through the 'lens' of accumulated impressions.

See also


  • Runes, Dagobert D. (ed.), Dictionary of Philosophy, Littlefield, Adams, and Company, Totowa, NJ, 1972.

External links

apperception in German: Apperzeption
apperception in Spanish: Apercepción
apperception in French: Aperception
apperception in Polish: Apercepcja
apperception in Russian: Апперцепция
apperception in Finnish: Apperseptio
apperception in Ukrainian: Апперцепція
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