Thoughts about reality and our unique perception of it.

in psychology •  last year

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Naturally, we tend to have the deep conviction that our perception of what is happening is an objective representation of reality. Now, by definition, perception is subjective and it varies from person to person, therefore it is completely unique and personal. And although our way of perceiving a certain event may be common or very similar to many people, it must be recognized that ultimately it is always an individual experience.

Lets define these 2 basic terms.

What is objectivity:

means a lack of bias, judgment, or prejudice. / Judgment based on observable phenomena and uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices | Source

What is subjectivity:

refers to how someone’s judgment is shaped by personal opinions and feelings instead of outside influences. / Judgment based on individual personal impressions and feelings and opinions rather than external facts. | Source

Perception can generally be assimilated thanks to our emotions, such as fear, joy, anger, or sadness; and applying our subjective evaluation based on them, which results in our feelings, such as happiness or melancholy. The important thing is to note that although the majority of the people will have a very similar reaction towards the same event, it is also true that many times that reaction will end up being completely different. That is, there is no mathematical gold rule that we can apply to know what effect an event can have on the human being.

What is perception.

Perception can be defined as our recognition and interpretation of sensory information. Perception also includes how we respond to the information. We can think of perception as a process where we take in sensory information from our environment and use that information in order to interact with our environment. Perception allows us to take the sensory information in and make it into something meaningful. | Source

On the other hand, our beliefs, opinions, points of view and every other knowledge developed throughout our lives determine how we face reality, that is, how we perceive the things that happen around us. In other words, our identity and all the knowledge that is stored in our memory directly affects the way we feel and the way we relate with the world.

Thus, our beliefs and perceptions have a direct impact on how we deal with the totality of our experiences, from our relationship with our family or friends to the impact that television news has on us. The important thing is to understand that according to our particular way of thinking, we will perceive things in a certain and unique way. And this perception, at the same time, will condition our way of thinking, and therefore, our actions. Because of this, a kind of loop is established between our beliefs and our perceptions, reinforcing each other, and sometimes it is taken to the extreme, hence the importance of always having a little bit of objectivity in us.

The construction of our identity is a highly complex process unconsciously elaborated during our human development, from practically our birth, and in which multiple factors end up shaping us, going from our innate biological characteristics and temperament (inherited by our parents), to the endless experiences that we have the opportunity to live during the course of our existence.

In any case, it is interesting to discuss the mental (and natural) conditioning that almost all of us carry by default and that, although it can be very useful in many occasions, in many others, it can be an impediment or an obstacle.

So, we have an opportunity to rethink things when we understand that we always exercise a subjective filter that conditions, for better or for worse, our way of understanding the reality that surrounds us. And by reaching that understanding, in addition, we give ourselves the opportunity to change it if we see that it is not benefiting us.

By accepting our points of view as something relative to our circumstances and unique interpretation, and by taking into account the importance we give to our impressions and perceptions (knowing that they are based on a concept of identity derived from our past experiences), I believe that this can help us reach a more mature state, and also on a more important level, to understand and relate to other people much more easily.

Accepting the fact we perceive our reality not necessarily in an objective way, can fuel a lot of philosophical questions and discussions. with the most important example coming from Plato's Allegory of the Cave which is explained below:

In the allegory, Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see.

Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality. They would think the things they see on the wall (the shadows) were real; they would know nothing of the real causes of the shadows. | Source

The most popular example in today's culture is from the famous dialogue between Neo and Morpheus in Matrix when asking about which pills to choose. This question was nothing more than asking what was more important? reality (the almost destroyed world governed by machines) of perception (the virtual world where everything was normal)?

This questions can be approached using many angles, but I would like to first leave it to you.

Which one do you think is more important and why, our perception of the world, or how reality really is?




References

vocabulary - objectivity
vocabulary - subjectivity
study - perception
faculty.washington.edu - plato's cave


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You've asked a very good question.

'Which one do you think is more important and why, our perception of the world, or how reality really is?'

I don't think either is more important. I think what's important is our effective use of the subjective filter that you mentioned.

Done so by realizing that we subconsciously run all our experiences through it. Being able to realize how much we are, and in what ways we are doing so, in each new situation; that's the skill to hone over a lifetime.

Can our subjectivity ever be overcome completely, given that we're motivated by animalistic impulses at our core and employing our subjective leanings even when having the best of intentions to do otherwise?

I don't think it can be overcome. What we can acquire is awareness, in all things. Presence of mind and awareness are powerful tools.

Subjective experience is not meaningless. I believe it's what gives some of us deeper and certain unique insight in certain ways, and it's what bonds some of us together in special ways as well. There is cold hard physical reality, and there is a whole other universe of inner reality unique to each of us. It's really a beautiful and useful part of our humanity if regarded from the right perspective, kept in check with what the universal outside reality presents itself to be.

You get extra points for referencing Plato's Aallegory of the Cave because it gives me an excuse to share this:

And with all that said I'll just leave this here: http://www.integralscience.org/sacredscience/SS_quantum.html

(I've enjoyed your writing. I'll have to check out more of your blog.)

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Can our subjectivity ever be overcome completely

No, I don't think so. But in the future who knows. Getting rid of our subjectivity would probably require a level of integration with the universe or with our reality, that is as of now, far from what can we imagine today.

Quantum physics is an incredibly deep subject, and learning about it is fascinating. For example, I believe there is a link between quatum physics and the simulation theory . And I plan to make 1 or several posts about this in the future. The link I believe exist consists on this:

  • In videogames in order to load the game properly with good enough hardware, the parts of the game loaded are determined by the player's perspective. Therefore, the player affects how the world loads. In other words, what the player sees, affects this little virtual reality, simply by seeing it. This is, of course, to alleviate the workload so the game can run on cheaper hardware.

  • The same happens in quantum physics, we affect reality simply by seeing it. We affect particles simply by seeing them.

Just like in video games.

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It is very fascinating. And so is the angle you've mentioned. I love to see someone writing about and discussing these things. Thanks for the references and the long reply too. :)

Well, this is some question. My best pop at an answers from me would be to suggest first and foremost, that what 'I' am is itself made of the this experience itself. Thats is the first cut.
Nothing can be experienced without experiencing itself, or without the knowing of it. (as Rupert Spira would say)
When we talk of affecting our experience, be it positively or negatively, we immediately place a dualistic point of view - a 'me' in here, separate from an 'experience' out there. This is where we disappear down the rabbit-hole.
But the recognition of my nature as the knowing of experience has the possibility to change profoundly that experience itself, yet there is little impetus to do so from a personal point of view, it either occurs or it doesn't, 'I@ am simply on a ride that existence is playing through both character and environment, 'both' (oops) of which arise in one awareness.
Tricky to talk of with a language based in duality.
Great post.

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We are the result of all our interactions we have had.

When we talk of affecting our experience, be it positively or negatively, we immediately place a dualistic point of view - a 'me' in here

Yes, we need to put a "me" in there because we are talking about how each of us, individually, develop a different perception, probably making the interpretation of our world different as well.

As far as I know, we are the only tool the universe has to experience itself.

Maybe you are a simulation and this is just a buggy video game.

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No, YOU are. Don't tell me what I am. That's just like your opinion, man. Your subjective opinion.

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Of course that’s a possibility. Even Elon Musk thinks the same.

Thanks for your thoughts.
I know that what comes in through our perceptions are vert\y much effected by our constructs about what is reality. A better way of thinking of reality is to think of it as the current status quo

To answer the final question; our perception is in fact our reality, because it is the only thing we can see. In a Matrix scene, Morpheus says:

What is real? How do you define real? If you're talking about what you can feel, what you can smell, what you can taste and see, then real is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.

The answer is something similar to that, all by nature we have a high level of subjectivity in our reasoning, so that reality is subjective and varies depending on who sees it.

Maybe we can be aware that our knowledge is modified by our perception, making us a little more reasonable, although being aware that our thinking, no matter how reasonable we are, will be biased.

It is an interesting topic without a doubt, of which you can spend hours thinking about it without noticing it.

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I also think our perception is more important, at least in the short term, since it is the only thing that confirms we are alive and can feel things.

I’ve had a quote on my fridge (actually many fridges) for about 25 years: “Be careful how you interpret reality. It is that way.” Eric Heller
But to answer your question, how reality really is more important. Which is why we owe it to ourselves and our loved ones, coworkers, anyone that has to live with our particular quirks, to work at being as perceptive as possible, to acknowledge our own faulty perception, and to try to be empathic of how and why other others perceive the world in the way they do. I just posted an essay about perception today that you might appreciate.

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I will check your essay :) !

The quote you had on your fridge is spot on in my opinion, how we interpret things, is how they will be for us. Making that subjective and perhaps faulty interpretation our reality.

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Neat! I saw someone liked my reply and realized it was you. I've been meaning to catch up with you @cstrimel. I'm up a bit too late for that now, but I'll check out that new post of yours sometime tomorrow. And the original one you referenced to me, too. (Still haven't forgotten, just got sucked into the wormhole.) I would upvote you back, but I'm running too low on vote power right now.

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Ha! No problem. I appreciate that you’re even thinking about catching up. Hope you got a good night sleep! :)

Oh man, really good topic,

I personally feel that reality is more important. It's pretty easy to go around thinking that what we perceive is most important, hard not to honestly. That's just kind of what we feel until we really look for reality.

I mean how many of us actually have taken the red pill and gotten out of the way of reality. The world looks much different when our ideas, beliefs, and personal feelings towards things are dropped to give space for reality to show us what's actually happening.

Nice one as always

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The thing is, that no matter how hard we try, getting rid of our innate subjectivity is probably impossible.

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It very well could be, the way some of these teachers talk about seeing reality or truth makes it seem like they are taking in the reality unfiltered by a personal perspective. Not sure though, I haven't gotten rid of subjectivity yet.

As living beings we will always perceive our Reality under a subjective point of view, as everything is filtered by our senses, our experiences, our emotions and our thoughts.

Senses are filtered by our physiology and our anatomy.
Experiences are shaped by the events of our life and how we perceive them.
Emotions are shaped by all of this.

In fact, we will be subjective beings as long as we will have senses, experiences, emotions, thoughts.

Maybe some day we will be pure consciousness: as such, things will be even more subjective.
The same if we out ourselves into digital, as even Artificial Intelligence may be biased because of the mind asset of the programmers.

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Yes, subjectivity is something permanent apparently. I was seeing a video about Michio Kaku talking about different vibrations and how there could be totally different worlds next to us, inaccessible simply because the vibrations are on a different band. Subjectivity can change things more than we can think.

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It’s a philosophical topic.
If our consciousness shapes our Reality, then changing our inner thoughts, and so our consciousness, may change our personal World.
There is some psychological elements here: it’s called selective attention.
It means that the World is the same for everybody, with its many paths.
What we focus on makes us selecting a specific path and lose sight of the other ones.

Reality shows the truth of the place you're living. While our imagination and perceptions helped us to escape from the perfect world that we assume all the time.

This life is more subjectivity than objectivity. It's a shame that many people think otherwise.
Greetings!

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Its all relative ;)

Very well written @dedicatedguy. The allegory of the Cave is a heavily loaded and insightful story. Keep up the good work!

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Thanks pal!

Wow interesting topic. This is amazing and deep. Got me thinking really hard.

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These subjects can be as deep as we make them. There are much more things that can be discussed about this.