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Court in the Act- The Three Stages of Perception

Updated on June 15, 2014

Dearest Emily,

I do not have long; I have been poisoned by cyanide. I believe it was in the Tadins Seven Blossoms Tea that I was given last week for my birthday. My eyes have begun to burn and I am feeling weak. I am now grateful that you did not attend my party. I do not know who gave me the tea, but I believe it was given to me by someone who wished to take my money. Out of the party guests only four are written in my will; they are Abriana Altieri, Andrés Ruiz,

and Ben and Leila White. You will receive an invitation to my Will reading

on January 1, 2013, at the Gramercy Park Hotel within the next week. The reading

of my Will, will present you with the perfect opportunity to catch my killer. I realize

this is a great deal to ask, but you are the only one whom I trust.

With love, your grandfather,

William Brown

Emily had been told about her grandfather’s passing, but had been assured that he died of natural causes. Knowing that she only has a week to find out as much as possible about her grandfather’s murder suspects, she goes to her laptop to begin researching both the suspects and the tea that had killed her grandfather. As Emily organizes her suspect list she moves Andres Ruiz to the top. Ruiz, a middle aged Mexican American, who helped found Emily’s grandfather’s firm and is now a trader of Mexican art, and is the most likely culprit to have given the gift of tea since it is native to Mexico. It is hard for Emily to suspect Andres because he had been like an uncle to her when she was younger. However, he disappeared for roughly a year while he transformed himself into an art trader and has not been the same since.

Next she looks at the female suspects because she has read that women are thirty-five percent more likely to use poison to kill than men are. The next suspect is Abriana Altieri, a middle-aged Italian woman, who currently works as a financial consultant for large firms. According to rumors, Emily’s grandfather had recently fired her.

Next on the suspect list are Ben and Leila White; Ben is Emily’s cousin and the late William Brown’s nephew. Ben is twenty-five and Leila is twenty-eight; both are American and grew up in New York. Leila was working as a manager at Emily’s grandfather’s company when she met Ben and has since been promoted within the firm many times until she became one of William Brown’s advisors after marrying his nephew. Emily was always close to Ben and was surprised when he suddenly married Leila after only knowing her for a few months. Ben normally took his time when making important decisions. Emily always wondered if Leila only married Ben in order to move up in the company quicker.

***One week Later, January 1, 2013 Gramercy Park Hotel, New York***

Emily is seated in a chair in the conference room at the hotel with Elmer Wood, the family lawyer, as her grandfather’s family, friends, and associates file in. Emily notices nothing out of the ordinary; everyone seems sad. The only thing that stands out is the fact that Abriana is standing close to Andrés and keeps touching him. Elmer Wood stands and says that there has been a change of plans; only the minor bequests would be dealt with during the morning and all others would be handled after dinner. As Mr. Wood tells the group about the change, Emily notices how Leila’s eyebrows lower in anger and how her lips suddenly thin before Leila catches herself and returns her face to a sad expression. Mr. Wood meanwhile finishes the first half of the reading and asks that anyone not needed for the second half of the reading leave. Only Mr. Wood, Emily, and her suspects remain in the room.

Emily invites the group out for lunch to afford her the chance to speak to everyone; only Elmer Wood declines her invitation. Once at the restaurant Emily tells, the group that she had received a letter from her grandfather telling her that he was killed by poison and naming everyone at the table as a suspect. When Emily says this she observes that only Ben, Abriana, and Andrés look surprised and that Leila has begun to look at the exits nervously. Emily then mentions the fact that it was the tea that killed her grandfather. Upon saying this Emily notices that Andrés looks guilty, however, before she can say anything else Andrés tells the group that he had given William the tea as a birthday present and never knew that it had been poisoned. He expresses sorrow for any role he unintentionally played in William’s death. As Andrés speaks, Emily notices that Leila has begun to shake. Leila stands and excuses herself to the bathroom as she hurriedly walks away. Andrés says that the only person besides him who ever had the tea was Leila; Leila hears him and takes off running out of the restaurant. Concluding that Leila is the murderer Emily takes out her cell phone and calls the police, while Andrés and Ben take off after Leila. The police arrive just as Andrés and Ben return with Leila. Emily tells the police everything and gives them her grandfather’s letter. Leila confesses that she killed William because he refused to promote her any further. She believed that she put more work into the company than William ever did. With William’s death she thought that she would be promoted to Vice President of the company.

Three Stages of Perception

  1. The first step in the perception process is selection. Selection is “the process in which your mind and body help you chose certain stimuli to attend to” (Floyd 109). Stimulus is often selected in this step based on how unusual or unexpected it is, the frequency of exposure, and the intensity of the stimulus. My main character, Emily, relied on how unusual or unexpected the stimulus was. An example of this is when Elmer Wood announced that part of the Will reading would be delayed; Emily observed how everyone looked either sad or indifferent with the exception of Leila who appeared angry. In this situation that type of reaction was unexpected. At the restaurant Emily also noticed that Leila did not look surprised at the revelation that her grandfather was murdered even though Emily, her grandfather, and the killer were the only ones that knew that he died of unnatural causes. In both of these examples Emily 's mind choses to focus on Leila’s behavior because it was unusual.
  2. The second step is organization; organization “ helps you makes sense of the information by revealing how it is similar to, and different from, other things you know about. To classify a stimulus, your mind applies perceptual schema to it, or a mental framework for organizing information” (Floyd 109). Organization has four different types of constructs, they are physical, role, interaction, and psychological constructs. In my story Emily uses physical and psychological constructs to organize information which has been selected by her mind. Physical constructs “emphasizes people’s appearance, causing us to notice objective characteristics such as height, age, ethnicity, and body shape, as well as subjective characteristics such as physical attractiveness” (Floyd 110). Emily used physical constructs at the beginning of my story when she ordered her suspects based on gender and ethnicity. She knew that women are thirty-five percent more likely to use poison to kill than men are, so she focused on Abriana and Leila White based on their gender. She also knew the tea came from Mexico, so she focused on Andrés Ruiz because of his ethnicity. Psychological constructs “emphasize people’s thoughts and feelings, causing us to perceive that a person is angry, self-assured, insecure, envious, or worried” (Floyd 110). Emily organized the information that she had selected to focus on from step one using a psychological construct. Emily organized Leila’s psychological and emotional reactions; the way that Leila acted angry at the will reading and then nervous and scared at the restaurant.
  3. The third and final step in the perception process is interpretation. Interpretation is “the process of assigning meaning to information that has been selected for attention and organized” (Floyd 111). There are three factors used to interpret behavior, they are experience, knowledge, and closeness. Emily used knowledge of Leila’s emotional response throughout the day to mean that Leila killed her grandfather in order to get promoted further. Emily used the information that she had first selected and then organized it to mean that Leila was the murderer. Emily also used her experience with Andrés being an honest and open person that she had known since childhood to interpret his behavior as only feeling guilty at having given her grandfather the tea that killed him, and not actually having killed him.

Works Cited
"Cyanide Poisoning." Drugs.com. Drugs.com, 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. <http://www.drugs.com/cg/cyanide-poisoning.html>.
Eisenberg, Jessica. "28 Best Italian Baby Names." Yahoo.com. Yahoo, 10 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. <http://voices.yahoo.com/28-best-italian-baby-names- 10139847.html?cat=25>.
"Find Your Favorite Hispanic Baby Boy Name Or Simply Learn About Spanish Baby Names." Hispanic-culture. Hispanic Culture, n.d. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. <http://www.hispanic- culture-online.com/hispanic-baby-boy-name.html>.
Floyd, Kory. Interpersonal Communication. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011. Print.
GCchange. "10 Poisons Used To Kill People." Listverse.com. Listverse, 2 Dec. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2013. <http://listverse.com/2012/12/02/10-poisons-used-to-kill-people/>.

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