Not long ago I was in a meeting with a stakeholder. He said that perception is the reality. Out of respect, I did not disagree with him. However, not speaking up bothered me deeply. I could not sleep the entire night. In my world and on my mind, perception is just perception. It is the understanding of the other person and it does not make anything the reality.
I cannot count how many times I spoke with someone only to find out they did not look at the situation 360 degrees. You see a snippet of a situation and start making judgements and maybe reach a conclusion. The person on the other side of the table is staring at you in awe. This is why we ask “did you do your due diligence?”
Science defines perception as the neurophysiological processes, including memory, by which an organism becomes aware of and interprets external stimuli. Another definition is that perception is a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression. It is clear that perception is subjective. How can it be the reality?
The way we see the reality is affected by the way we focus on the subject. It is the same as seeing the glass half full while the other person is seeing it half empty. The reality is that the amount of water in the glass is equal to 1/2 of the size of that glass. Our personal choices, implicit biases, and beliefs effect our reality. On the other hand, our reality may not be the reality of others. It may not be the reality at all. How does this happen? It happens because we see what we want to see. Our brain starts searching and focusing on the things that support what we believe in. Psychology defines this as “confirmation bias”. As we talk about the importance of anti-bias approach in education, how can we make sure that we are doing everything to be objective? One way is to check the facts in hand and remind ourselves to be objective.
Our life experiences shape our realities. If you see John as a trouble maker, every time something goes wrong in the classroom you may think it is John’s fault. If you lost trust in your significant other, you may question everyone who presents similar behavior or who looks similar to that person. If you were bullied by a tall boy with big muscles, you may be scared each time you see a person who looks like that. Does this make you right? No. You are biased and your perception is influenced by your negative experiences.
I watched an episode of Daredevil. A nine year old boy becomes blind after getting hit by a truck. His life takes a turn after this. His father dies, he starts hearing voices, pretty much everything around him even the things that are blocks away. Some people think that he is getting worse and is about to lose his mind because he is out of control with all the stimuli. He thinks he will not be able to live like this. Until an old blind man talks to him about his blindness being a gift. After listening to the old man the boy says ” until now, I have never thought of this as a gift.” Perfect example of perception. Our own beliefs and life experiences create our realities but they may not be the reality itself after all.