Dissecting Understanding Part VIII: Perception

  • the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses. “the normal limits to human perception
  • the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses. “the perception of pain
  • a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression. “Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public


I would like to discuss the third bullet on this Philosophy Sunday.

(Mini-note…”Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public”??? That sounds mighty ominous!! Is that why that horrible show about that one iconic family is such a hit? Because that is Hollywood’s perception of the tastes of the American public?? What a sad state of affairs….)

Perception is a fickle and capricious beast! As a whole, society’s perceptions are seemingly in constant flux–at least that is my perception–shifting from one point of view to the next, one extreme to the next, more quickly than the blink of an eye. As individuals, we seem to be either a stick-in-the-mud-sticking-to-my-guns type, a que-sera-sera type, or a “sheeple” who ebb and flow along the most-popular-perception-at-the-moment type. Perception is weird.


It has been argued that, essentially, there is no reality–only everyone’s individual perception of reality. And since perceptions are a lot like opinions–everyone has one and everyone’s is different–it is hard to argue the existence of a one true reality. Also, like opinions, everyone seems to be positive that their perception is the right one.

This battle that perception causes, is, in my opinion, the biggest contributor in any argument. “You said this, this is how I perceived it, and now I am mad. ” Followed with a, “Yeah, I did say that, but it means this to me, and I cannot believe that you could perceive what I said in such a way.” Or, “This is how my people perceive the world. This is what we believe in, and we are 100% right, and you are 100% wrong. Therefore YOU change your opinion!” Followed with, “Well that doesn’t make any sense to me and my people. Obviously you guys are crazy, and unless you change, you will be destroyed.”


To dial it back to a more mentally manageable level, how does perception affect your day to day life? For myself, I find that other’s perceptions of me seem to vary quite a great deal. Being one who strives to be the walking epitome of “Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover,” it is a personal goal of mine to contradict those perceptions. I want to look like a veritable badass, but in reality I am sweet, almost too sensitive, and pretty friendly. I want to look cool, but really, I am hardly “on fleek.” I can be a punk, a geek, a goth, an emo, a slightly unprofessional-looking professional, a rocker, a furry, a valedictorian and the class clown–but in reality, I do not fit fully into any of these categories.

Sometimes the perceptions of different social groups surprise me! In my group of hooligans, although I am one of the oldest, I am one of the tamest. One of the least experienced, and kind of a puss when it comes to some of the more “hardcore pastimes.” (For example, the mosh pit! I have never been in one!! Or fighting–I have never been in a fight, even though several people have tried to start one with me.) However, my stories being told at the museum where I work–man! People seem astounded by my badassery!


I do kind of feel that reality is based on your own perception. And your perception–your world-view, if you will–can be changed. Therefore you can change your reality. However, you cannot force someone else to change their perceptions. What are perceptions made of? The thoughts, opinions, nature/nurture, and reactions of the individual. I cannot see the world through your eyes, because I was born with mine; and visa versa.

Although I am sure the governments of the world would like us all to be on the same page, I don’t think there would ever be an agreement on who, in fact, carries the right belief. I mean, we purposely have different perceptions in the United States–because that is what democracy is all about! Therefore…is world peace possible? Is there a way to collectively alter everyone’s perceptions? In that case, would there need to be one single answer? Would it not be more simple to just agree to disagree? I am rather against a “sheeple” mentality, so I do not think a single collective perception would be ideal, but what do I know? Only the reality that I perceive…