How Different Are Our Perceptions?

We use our perception to make since of the world. It gives us direction, forms our values and influences our relationships, decisions and realities. Our lives are so intimately connected to our perception that most of the time, we fail to realize its influence upon us and we begin to see our perceptions as truth and matter of fact. The reality is that our perception is just one of 6 billion in this world, and when it comes to any type of relationship, we have to negotiate our perception with others’ views and understandings. This process at times can be difficult and cause conflict between us and others. So the question is: Just how different are our perceptions with others? Knowing that we all do not see the world the same can help us resolve and prevent some of our conflicts.
How different are our Perceptions:
The answer to this question is that our perceptions are very different from one another. Let’s look at something as basic as our attention. When we see, our eyes bring in mass amounts of information to our brain. Our brain then sifts through the visual information and focuses on images that are important to us. This is done through our short term memory. We call is process our attention. Attention researchers have discovered that if two people are looking out a window together, they are literally seeing something very different. This is because everybody is focusing on some things and suppressing others. Therefore what we physically see is different then what others see, because our attention is selective and individual. In other words, we are literally seeing the world in a different way.
Another perception experiment was with married couples. For a few weeks married couples were to keep a journal of everything that they did. Since married couples tend to spend a lot of time together, the experiment was designed to compare everyday interactions and experiences that both parties shared. After the few weeks were completed, the journals revealed some interesting observations. The conclusion after comparing the notes was that the level of agreement on their accounts was at the level of pure chance. These are people who live, eat and sleep together, yet they do not see the same world. Each person described what they saw and experienced so differently; it would be hard to conclude that they saw and experienced the same events.
Not only do we literally see things differently, but we place meaning onto what we see. Observations and visual data mean little to us if it does not have meaning. It is meaning that dictates our actions and responses as to what we see. For example, if we see danger, we only know that it is danger because of the meaning that we placed on the visual image that we received. Our meanings that we have are created through our culture, knowledge; and our own personal experiences. For example, we may look at a dog and feel comfortable, while someone else may see a dog and be afraid due to a past experience. Thus these tenants of culture, knowledge, and experiences plays a big role and to how we see the world.
The problem for us comes with negotiating our perceptions with others. Many of times, we may share some of our perceptions with people from our own culture, or family. But there are times when our perceptions clash with others and create conflict between ourselves. So being aware of the existence of differences in perception will go a long way in our ability to relate to others. Taking the time to learn and understand other’s perceptions will help you overcome disagreements and conflicts that may arise. Take time to ask open ended questions about how others feel and see the world. Try to be open and nonjudgmental. This does not mean you have to agree with them, but rather understand and respect their perception as a collection of their life experiences. By understanding and being more aware of perceptions, we will be better prepared to improve and strengthen our relationships.

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