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.
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.
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!