Perception Deception: Are You Falling For This?

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Perception is one’s interpretation of the world as it is understood.

At any given moment, our particular perceptions determine how we:

  • approach life in general
  • communicate with others, express expectations, and conduct ourselves
  • formulate attitudes, beliefs, and opinions
  • handle challenges, problems and opportunities
  • interpret art, music, poetry. Billy Joel says, “Artists – musicians, painters, writers, poets, always seem to have had the most accurate perception of what is really going on around them, not the official version or the popular perception of contemporary life.
  • make decisions
  • sum people up after only a few seconds
  • view our own self image, In all our considerations, I think it’s also important to remember that we are all made in the image of God.

Perception also determines what we give our attention to, because, according to how we perceive things, we make decisions about what matters and what doesn’t by assigning a level of importance to them.

Perception Deception: Are You Falling For This?

Many people see themselves as a fairly good judge of character. But, how often, given enough time, are our initial impressions of someone completely wrong?

How many fall into the trap of making snap judgments of others that turn out to be false?

It’s an important consideration, given that some people base their feelings of others upon wrong ideas assumed to be facts.

For example…

How many people dislike or even hate others based upon a wrong impression?

How often are decisions made on partial information?

One of the problems with our perceptions is that we can mislead ourselves into thinking that we have an accurate interpretation of things when they can be far from reality. Wrong ideas like this seem to support the fallacy that “perception is reality.”

But is there anything we can do?

Perhaps we can:

  • be unwilling to make assumptions/jump to conclusions
  • be more aware and observant
  • challenge our own biases and the judgments we make
  • sharpen our skills of discernment and understanding
  • take time to learn and know

When you have opportunity to know differently, it completely changes your feelings about someone.

Can we ever be sure of our perceptions?

Can we ever be sure of our perceptions?

British psychologist Edward de Bono informs us,

Most of the mistakes in thinking are inadequacies of perception rather than mistakes of logic. Studies have shown that 90% of error in thinking is due to error in perception. If you can change your perception, you can change your emotion and this can lead to new ideas.

Where self is concerned, American sociologist Charles Cooley suggested that we obtain our sense of self, both from our personal experiences and from society’s perceptions. He called this psychological concept the looking-glass self. This comes about by imagining how we seem to be to others, and how our imagined judgment of others contributes to our identity.

Reputation is other people’s perception. Some people are overly concerned with their reputation, and others are quite comfortable in their own skin. Actress Angelina Jolie said,

If I make a fool of myself, who cares? I’m not frightened by anyone’s perception of me.

I agree. I think it is incumbent on us to be who we really are, to develop and polish our character.

Angelina goes on to say,

I like to hide behind the characters I play. Despite the public perception, I am a very private person who has a hard time with the fame thing.

Salman Rushdie keyed in on this when he observed,

Sometimes I think that when people become famous, there’s a public perception that they are not human beings any more. They don’t have feelings; they don’t get hurt; you can act and say as you like about them.

An Undercurrent of Public Perception

There is certainly an undercurrent of distaste with regards to popular perception. The distaste has its roots in the disparity between truth and reality; things that have grown out of proportion. Stephen Colbert says,

Truthfulness is tearing apart our country, and I don’t mean the argument over who came up with the word. I don’t know whether it’s a new thing, but it’s certainly a current thing, in that it doesn’t seem to matter what facts are. It used to be, everyone was entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts. But that’s not the case any more. Facts matter not at all. Perception is everything.

Rush Limbaugh says,

Everything about the left is perception, manipulation and lies. Everything. Everything is ‘Wag the Dog.’ Everything is a structured deception.

And popular preacher Joyce Meyer says,

I think the perception of peace is what distracts most people from really having it.

Perception, as it turns out, effects everything.

A Telling Story About Human Perception

Perceptions can sometimes be very misleading. Take this story, for example:

On a cold January morning in 2007, at a Metro Station in Washington , D.C., this man played six Bach pieces on a violin for about 45 minutes. At the time, about 2,000 people passed through the Metro station. The majority were heading to work.

Around the three minute mark, a middle-aged man slowed his pace briefly to observe the musician, but then hurried away to meet his schedule.

Another minute later, a woman threw a dollar into the violinist’s hat, and without stopping, carried on about her business and walked away.

At the 6 minute mark, a young man took a moment to lean against the wall to listen to the musician. Then, looking at his watch, also walked away.

At 10 minutes, the violinist caught the attention of a 3-year old boy who stopped, but his mother hurriedly tugged him along.

Again the little boy stopped to watch the musician, but his mother pushed him to keep walking. As he moved forward, he kept turning his head to look.

Several more children did the same thing, but in each case – without exception – they, too, were forced to move quickly on.

At 45 minutes, the musician played non-stop. Just 6 people took a brief moment to listen. In passing, about 20 people tossed money into the hat, but carried on in their normal stride.

The musician collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour, he stopped playing altogether, and the silence resumed. Nobody noticed. There was no applause, no fanfare, no recognition.

No one knew that one of the greatest musicians in the world, Joshua Bell, had just played a $3.5 million dollar violin and one of the most intricate pieces of music ever written.

Only 2 days before, Joshua played to a sold-out theater in Boston, where people paid $100, on average, to enjoy listening to him.

Joshua Bell, having played incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was part of a social experiment organized by the Washington Post
about perception, people’s priorities, and taste.

This experiment raised several questions:

  • In a commonplace environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?
  • If so, do we stop to appreciate it?
  • Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

Certainly, many of those in the experiment had other obligations, but what else are we missing as we rush through life?
Will we continue to allow lack of awareness to rob us of joys that await us?

For example, some people do not believe in miracles. Jon Bon Jovi said,

Miracles happen every day. Change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.

I learned a different lesson in a similar way. I learned that if a problem, or a set of circumstances is beyond my control, then I need to change my perception. I need to change the way I look at those things.

Over To You. Have Your Say…

What about you? Have you ever been misguided by your perceptions?

Have you ever been hurt by other people’s perceptions?

As you read this post, were you reminded of experiences others can learn from?

I appreciate learning from you. Please add value by contributing your thoughts and experience here.

Thank you kindly!

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About Bill Butler
William A. Butler is a John C.Maxwell certified coach. He loves to add value to others and aspiring to be a great humanitarian, lives by four words: BE LOVE TO OTHERS. William often goes by "Bill" and is a poet, a songwriter and has an upcoming novel.

26 thoughts on “Perception Deception: Are You Falling For This?

  1. Bill,

    I can only say wow! This post was not only informative but brilliant. I am glad no one was rushing me, pushing me or hindering me from taking it all in. I would recommend to all of us read the post again slowly.

    The truth of the matter is that we have all missed out and prejudged based on perception or a lack of accurate information.

    I appreciate your research and the wonderful quotes that were like open windows helping us to see and not just perceive.

    Blessings on you Bill,

    Appreciate you,

    Jay Simms

    • Greetings Jay,
      Thank you for those wonderful words of encouragement. Proper perceptions are fine because they align with reality. But as you’ve noted, we’ve all missed the boat on this. Wrong perceptions lead to bad assumptions, false beliefs, hatred, and misjudged motives. The great news is that they can be corrected with enough time and understanding.

      I receive those blessings, and I wish the very same for you.
      Warm Regards,

  2. Hey Bill,

    Awesome read today man! I really loved on the quotes you threw in there, it really changed the dimension of your blog post!

    I think that perception can certainly hurt you, I know that being a younger professional I have seen that for sure. I’m the youngest in my position, and I run an MLM business but I’m not even 21! People perceive me as inexperienced or too young.

    At the same token people who know my work ethic and abilities perceive me as much older than I am because present myself that way.

    So I think perception can help or hurt, but what you perceive is truly what you believe!


    Zach recently posted…Winter Workout BluesMy Profile

    • Hey Zach,
      Glad you find the post meaningful. Thanks for expressing how people perceive you. When people take the time to know you for who you are, their perception of you will be corrected. At any given time, we are perceiving or projecting. So you’re right, what we apprehend is what we usually accept as a belief.

      Thanks for contributing. I appreciate you.

  3. Mary Stephenson says:

    Hi Bill

    Loved the experiment. Most everyone is guilty of perceiving how they see it and never really trying to figure another way of looking at things.

    Perhaps most of us judge by what we think we see and not what really is. Children haven’t had enough exposure and time to quickly form an opinion of what they see. It takes many years of programming by adults to mess up a child’s mind!

    If we could all not care what others thought, besides they are mostly worried about themselves. Others do form opinions that are not always favorable without justification for doing so. We can’t do much to correct that, except be the best we can be.

    I have learned over the years things are never just black and white, there can be many shades of what we assume to be accurate.


    • Hi Mary 🙂
      Yes, I loved that experiment too. There are many such social experiments, and they all point to our tendency to rush to judgment, or to not see the truth of the matter. You may have seen “What Would You Do?” on TV. Similar to what you’re saying about judging by what we think we see and not what really is, I think many people want some things so badly, they see what they want to. You’re right about children, and the adults who negatively influence them. I agree. We can only control what is in our power to, and other people’s thoughts and perceptions are one of those things we have no control over. You have the answer, of course… be our best. I think those shady areas are even more reason to be careful.

      Thank you very much for adding value to the conversation here. Have an enjoyable week!

  4. Hi Bill,

    Love, love, love this post!

    How interesting that just a few days ago I discussing perception versus reality with a client of mine who is also a friend. We were talking about how perception can lead us the wrong way. Years ago I’ve written an article about perception vs. reality, because it has ALWAYS fascinated me.

    Thankfully for me I’ve never been one who see actors or any show business person as some kind of a non-human or above humans, because I’ve spend a lot of times among actors (some very famous French actors) when I was acting, so that really makes me mad when people think that way. I can assure you that they are so like anyone else 🙂

    I love that story of the violin played by that famous violinist. Wow, that tells you a lot what perception does. Those people passing by missed what was given to them for free which would have cost them a lot o money to listen to in a different place. That’s amazing what perception does. Doesn’t it?

    Having the wrong perception is never a good thing. At times it can make us miss on great opportunities, at times it could even be dangerous like trusting someone we shouldn’t. Either, way we should always beware of perception.

    Thank you for another great post.

    • Hi Syviane,
      Thank you. it’s gratifying to have such nice feedback.

      I know what you mean. Wrong perceptions have also seen people adopt a life philosophy that doesn’t work, in theory or practice, because it has no basis in reality. I know some people in the music industry, and behind the scenes they are simply humble.

      The violin story serves to show how easy it is for us to be mistaken. It happens every day, too, where people are mistakenly identified because the person’s perception was wrong… such as lack of observation skills, or as you’ve suggested, trusting someone that shouldn’t be.

      You’re very welcome. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.
      Have a beautiful week!

  5. Hi Bill,

    I have been misguided by my own perception of things and people many many times and I tell you, that is why I love the way you shared the whole idea and especially the story of Joshua Bell. Incredible!

    However, sometimes my perceptions have shown miracles to me while some other times, I was faced with disappointments. But anyway, it is fun to see how our perceptions drive the results we get 🙂

    Thank you for these wonderful quotes. Enjoyed this post today. Looks like you really put a lot of thought before putting this together.

    Have a glorious week!


    • Hi Kumar,
      You’re not alone, my friend. We’ve all made the same mistakes, especially before having facts that would inform you otherwise.
      True enough. Perceptions can cause you to strive or to thrive. Glad you enjoyed the quotes.

      Have a tremendous week too! Thanks very much.

  6. Hello Mr. Bill
    I hope you are well!
    What an incredible article.
    First, thank you for the time you had taken and the time on research to awaken your readers.

    The story of Joshua Bell is amazing and thought provoking.
    Our perception is based on our beliefs. And then we act on what we believe.

    I don’t know if we can sharpen our perception, but I know we can grow in discernment.
    We need to be a people that go beyond what we see with our natural eyes and tune in to our spirits, which will never lead us in the wrong way.

    Thank you so much for making us aware….Perception does not mean reality.


    • Hello Gladys,
      I’m very well thank you. I wish the same for you and your loved ones.

      My pleasure Gladys. I’m glad to contribute. As to sharpening our perception, I think we can certainly heighten our awareness, and be more observant of things, especially our surroundings. I fully agree with you about being more discerning. I have seen definitions of inspirit to mean vital force, and to instill courage, and it only makes to tune into the Spirit in us, then we are inspirited.

      Have a glorious week!

  7. Bill, this is wonderful!

    The story you shared about Joshua Bell is perfect! As I was reading through, I remembered times when I used to ride the NYC subway and stopped to listen to a musician when it was good. I either applauded or went over and thanked them for brightening up my day as I put money in the hat.

    I guess my perception was that if this talented person is performing in the fast paced crowded subway and it caught my attention, I had to stop to make a connection with that.

    When I read the end of the story I actually got chills up my spine.

    As to your call to action, my perceptions had lead me the wrong way many times. But now maybe because I’m older and wiser, or just more aware, some kind of red flag goes off in my head when I catch myself perceiving something that stirs up an emotion. (Probably all that therapy got me to think lol)

    If I get a knee jerk reaction that something is “wrong or bad” about a new offer in business, or a person I immediately don’t like; I take a moment, breathe and ask myself why. Why am I perceiving this person or opportunity this way? Is it neuro-linked to a previous circumstance? Or is it something that I need to pay attention to because it may be a behavior I have Hmmm

    Now you have me thinking…that’s a good thing Bill!

    Donna Merrill recently posted…Developing A Social Media CampaignMy Profile

    • Hi Donna,
      First, thank you for sharing the post and for adding your valued comments. Beginning when my daughter was 8 years old, I would take her once a year by train to Toronto for just a Daddy-daughter getaway. In the subways and at major shopping outlets, street musicians and buskers would hone their craft. There were times we would stop and listen, throw in some coin, but rarely if ever engaged them in conversation. This means that we too could have listened to the likes of a Joshua Bell too and never known it.

      Speaking of perceptions leading one the wrong way, I’ve done it countless times in the past too. As Gladys pointed out, perceptions lead to actions. I keep that philosophy simple: When you do good, you feel good. Ooh, I like this got you thinking. 🙂 That’s good, right?

      Thanks again! Have a super week!

  8. Hi Bill,

    Great article. Many times in my life I have been misjudged by other people’s perceptions. I heard all my life that I was ‘stuck’ up because I don’t easily fall into conversation with others. I like to listen and gauge and access the people who are around me without jumping in. Instead, people make a snap judgement that I’m stuck up or something else (whatever that is!). When in reality I was really just the quiet one, listening to everything and checking things out. Then much later, when I got comfortable being around the people, I would get ‘oh you’re not that bad.’ 🙂 Really? Oh well…their perceptions.

    I had also read about the violinist and the experiment with the Washington Post, namely because my daughter played violin for 10 years so we were always going to concerts, etc. Yes, we would have stopped. I love the violin and I can’t imagine not stopping for something that is so hauntingly beautiful.

    This is a great post and I’m so glad you’ve brought awareness to how we need to change our perceptions, but also to stop and listen and not let the world pass you by.

    Thanks so much for this. A great reminder.
    God bless,

    • Hi Barbara,
      I think you maintained a great attitude and displayed great wisdom in choosing to listen and not be too overly concerned about what others think. I too love the sweet strains of violins. I enjoy other stringed instruments, such as cellos, mandolins. I also play 6-string acoustic guitar. Yes, in our busyness, we too often rush … to judgment, through life, etc.

      Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and experiences. Much appreciated!
      God bless you too!

  9. Hi Bill,

    Really love this post 🙂 I like your quotes. I fall into the Angelina Jolie thinking these days. I used to be concerned about what others thought about me, but now I am happy with my lot.

    Perception is a funny thing. I try to be more in tune with things, but it’s funny how we can have the completely wrong impression about someone or something.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Beth 🙂

    • Welcome Beth!
      A pleasure to have you here. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I recall at a leadership seminar I was at a few years back something similar to this… they’re not paying rent to take up space in your head, so don’t let them. In other words, don’t worry about what the neighbors are thinking.

      Perceptions can be completely misguided, but with awareness and time to understand, we are usually able to discern reality from falsehood.

      You’re very welcome Beth. 🙂 I will repay the courtesy by attending your website soon.

      Kind Regards,

  10. Hi, Bill 🙂

    Very interesting post consisting very relevant information! Many times in life we are slaves of perception. Most things could be different if we could get free of our perception to many things happening in life. And I think that’s one of the most important things in life, to learn to be open-minded and see things through different angles. As we grow we get many bad programming and that forms our view to life. I’m working on myself every day to extend my perception and to learn to see things through different angles.

    Thanks for sharing, Bill!

    • Hi Aistis 🙂

      I like how you’ve expressed that… slaves of perception. Another aspect of perception, what one believes to be true that I did not cover in the post, is that of those different angles you referred to. A police officer gets to an accident scene to find 5 witness. From their vantage point, they each relate what they perceive to be true. Even if they are not being deceitful, the officer needs to assess the information in terms of these various angles to create a comprehensive picture of what transpired before arriving.

      I agree about the “bad programming”… much of it passed off as education. For example, stay within the lines when you’re coloring. That restricts your creativity and freedom to express yourself. I’m glad that you are learning and growing. I appreciate your insights and thank you for sharing too. You’re very welcome 🙂
      Have a great week!

  11. Wow ! this is great , a very enlightening post indeed. We should really be aware of the things that surrounds us. Miracles are everywhere if we will just try to open our minds to the realities of good perception. Thanks for sharing a very informative article.

    • Hi Sherill,
      My pleasure to contribute. The interesting thing is that it has now been proven scientifically (Dr. Buce H. Lipton) that our perceptions inform our genes, not that our genes predispose us to illness. I am of the camp that miracles exist everywhere, if we but look for them.

      Kind Regards,

  12. Thanks for the thought-provoking article, Bill! Perception has been on my mind nonstop for the past couple of days, prompting me to Google perception and find your article. My boss told me that my perception is off based on two circumstances in which he disagreed with how I perceived something. Nothing major, just that I viewed something differently than how he claims he would’ve viewed it. Both incidents he wasn’t even present for. The way I see it, who is anyone to tell someone that their perception is wrong? What if their perception is the one that is wrong? Would love to hear your thoughts on someone thinking that someone else’s perception is wrong.

    • Welcome Heather,

      I think we can only be responsible for our own thoughts, actions (and reactions,) and attitude.
      Many people make assumptions, but not everyone has the courage to challenge those assumptions.
      Left unchallenged, they form a belief about an event or an experience, even if it happens to be wrong.

      In his book, The Success Principles, Jack Canfield explains how perception informs an outcome by outlining a simple formula E + R = O.
      Event + Response = Outcome

      This gist of the formula is that some people blame the event – it was the economy, your boss’s attitude, lack of support, etc.
      External events never prevent us from succeeding, we stop ourselves. Jack says most people make excuses and blame outside events and circumstances.

      His solution to this problem is to change the responses (R) to the events (E) until you get the outcomes (O) that you want.
      Change the way you see yourself and your world. Change your attitude, behavior, and communication.

      For example, a freeway is shut down due to an accident. One person’s response is they are livid because they are late for work. They express their anger and frustration. Meanwhile, in the car behind, the person’s response is that these things just happen… it is beyond my control, and surely the boss will understand. Therefore, I’ll use this time to listen to my favorite music.

      So here’s some food for thought:

      Is it possible your boss has information that he is not allowed to divulge that could be responsible for forming his response?

      What outcome was the boss hoping to achieve by informing you that your perception is wrong?

      What do you know that would help your boss understand why you see things the way you do?

      I have a family member, who in her own words said, “I prefer my own reality.” I am not responsible for how she thinks.
      I understand how she prefers to think, even though I disagree with it.

      How any one person reacts or responds (your boss, for example,) to events (or experiences,) that determines the outcome, is based on previous experiences and previous responses. The bottom line is, they’re going to see it the way they prefer to see it. I hope this is helpful.

      Kind Regards,

  13. Nice Article…Ive been trying to understand perception since I was in 7th grade..Our school class went on a walking field trip and our class was walking by a house when one of the classmates ahead of me punched a mailbox that was suspended by chains….as I walked by the mail box I reached out and stopped the mailbox from swinging and out of nowhere the teacher called my name in anger…he was in the back of the line walking around the curve, so in his visual perception it looked like to him I was the one who hit the mailbox…I told him what happened and he pushed me to apologize to the owner of the house for hitting the mailbox not believing me….I told the owner of the house the story and refused to apologize..which made the teacher more angry…..this event really affected me for a long time…its so easy to believe the truth is in your perception but you could be dead wrong….and not even know it…


    • Welcome Hank!

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I, too, have experienced someone thinking they saw something that didn’t happen.
      I was stopped at a light, and a man thought I struck a lady with the vehicle. She simply had fallen while crossing the street.
      I got out to see if she was alright, and she told me she was fine. The man accusing me of striking her had called for police and an ambulance.
      She didn’t want any help, and the man was simply wrong. It does teach us an important lesson: our perception of things is not always accurate.

      Our perception and attitude toward any situation will determine the outcome. Thank you kindly for contributing.

      Best Regards,

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