Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Query Fifteen: Perception and Actuality

Perception and Actuality

In this article I'm going to discuss my analysis of human perception and how it relates to the actuality of a situation, object, or person. The information will come simply from my observations and I implore readers to put their interpretations of this topic at hand into the comment area. First I will speak about personal views and actuality in relation to events.

If there is anything that I've learned from the massive wave of CSI, and Law and Order type shows is that witnesses, although helpful, are often unreliable. The actual situation could be a white male of average height stabbed a woman in the park while wearing a red coat. In three witness statements the suspect could change from a white man to a spanish man, a red coat to a purple coat, into a tall man or short man. A number of factors could go into the discrepencies in witness testimony such as lighting, the height of the witness in relation to the suspect and their distance. So environmental factors affect human perception of an event, but in addition it can also be mental factors. Maybe the person who saw the suspect as a spanish person learned since they were a child certain racial prejudices and thusly subconsciously brought forth the notion that the suspect was certainly spanish. This combination of environmental and mental discrepencies become far worse if the witnesses are put together to find what happened. Although they might agree on some things, some facts may be lost simply because a majority of the witnesses might convince the minority that their fact should be rethought. So human perception can taint human perception. So how can human perception be reliable? Well, when we evaluate the mentality of the person speaking we can clearly unravel the fact that the man was not spanish, but she assumed he was. In addition we can see that the old female witness is very short, so the man was tall to her but average to everyone else. In events like this, the investigators involved always take statements with a grain of salt and for good reason, because we as humans distort facts subconsciously.

Objects are static things and most would assume all people would have a definitive perception on it in relation to its actuality. In many cases this is true, but abstract art or abstract objects can quickly prove to dispel this. Things such as inkblots are used to see the thought proccess of the interpreter because in actuality its simply an inkblot, but what the interpreter distorts it into is very important to analyzing their mentality. Likewise abstract art is something different to any person who views it, which is why its beautiful. I learned that from my boyfriend, which brings us into the next point. If you can genuinely see what another person sees in the abstract portrait it means you can empathize well or you know how their thought process works (possibly without even consciously knowing how it works, mind trip huh?) In most or all cases, the abstract object or art piece is chaotic in form and in actuality and has no distinct intended form therefore ruling out a realistic view of it and automatically going into ones imagination to draw conclusions about the shapes and forms.

This is when it gets tricky, when we look at human perceptions on other humans. We've already brought the point that we subconsciously inject our views, opinions and distortions into something perceived, and when we do that to people that is what we base our views on them. We base it on ourselves, how they relate to our morals, beliefs, physical attributes and mental attributes. Another tricky part is that unlike the abstract art, we humans are a definite form, but at the same time we aren't as definitive as a stabbing or something that has happened. We are always changing our substance but our species is not abstract in the physical sense. This makes it a very big grey area between what is definitive and what is abstract and makes us as "subjects" extremely difficult to comprehend to other humans. The natural reaction is to simplify, hence generalizations and stereotypes are born. The brain automatically desires to put things into nice neat little groups which is why we are taught via the media and others stereotypes and generalizations, and also why some people accept them as fact. Of course like all things in the mind this can be combated through education and evading ignorance but it can never be fully eliminated seeing as it is a basic human coping mechanism.

The most interesting part of human perception is how it relates to the actuality of ourselves. Seeing something and repeating it with all of our filters can give away a lot about a person without them thinking twice about it. It's a fascinating, beautiful, and sometimes scary phenomena. It can mean life or death in some cases, a political rift, or a disagreement in a relationship, but with a little compassion we humans can overcome it and reach across the gaps in our dividing perceptions.



Stephanie Faris said...

I once dated a police officer who showed me how he learned the art of observation. They're trained to see everything that happens and record it in terms of criminal activity. "White male, six foot tall, average build..." You and I just see some guy walking by and register whether he's hot or not.

Matthias said...

Mhm perception is a wonderful tool when we harness it.