How Does Perception Influence Our Thinking?
The Encarta World Encyclopedia defines perception as "the process of using the senses to acquire information about the surrounding environment or situation." In other words, perception involves gaining information using all of the human's senses (i.e. sight, smell, touch, hearing, taste, etc.). For some people, other senses include spiritual, emotional, and instinctive (aka 6th sense) senses.
Perception is also defined as "the result of the process of perception." It is the information acquired by the interpretation of the senses.
Another definition states that perception is the "attitude or understanding based on what is observed or thought" (i.e. an impression).
The Effect of Perception to Human Thinking and Behavior
Perception, whether as a product or a process, cannot be detached from an individual. One's perception affects one's thinking and behavior. The information that any person has acquired from the interpretation of his or her senses results in two things. It could alter how he or she usually thinks about a certain subject, an effect known as a paradigm shift. Or, it could fortify the current attitude or mindset resulting in a status quo.
However, the process could also be done in reverse. People's current way of thinking sometimes influences how they view and entertain new information. Skepticism is usually the initial approach to foreign ideas invading the mind. A person's worldview or current perception of things or ideas may filter new ways of seeing things so that it fits the perception that their mind is willing to retain.
Factors that Affect the Influence of Perception
There are three basic factors that affect the way our perception (current way of thinking) influences our behavior. We can see it as universal, social or cultural, and personal.
- Logic. Logical reasoning either filter out or accept new ways of thinking. For example, if someone teaches 1+1=5, a logical person would most probably and automatically reject that way of thinking. Mathematics relies on the universal principles of logic. The universal principles of logic cannot be violated. Logic is a powerful principle that affects how perception influences our behavior.
- Values. Human values can also filter or accommodate new perceptions regardless of how logical new information is. Values or ethics are consolidated moral principles shared among people that are usually united by religious, socio-economic, academic, or political views. For example, religious people, who value their faith and beliefs more than any other things, may reject new ways of thinking especially if these violate their long-held views. It is the same with people differing in political views.
- Personal Experience. Sometimes, personal experiences affect how an individual acquire new ways of thinking. A personal crisis can drastically change how a person sees and processes things and events. For example, a person with deep psychological trauma or even phobia may not accept or process new ways of thinking and information.
Perception and Media
The mass media is an important transporter of new information. It contributes to a significant share in proliferating new ideas and perception of almost everything. Since perception affects people's thinking, values and beliefs, they are challenged with various perceptions through the media almost every day. People can either choose to accommodate this new information bombarded on them or filter them out.
The advent of social media further strengthened the spread of different ideas and perceptions. With new ways of communication, ordinary people can now share and react to other people's perceptions. On the positive side, this development leads to the understanding of different values and the establishment of common grounds for people to work together towards the common good. On the disadvantage, this can lead to self-serving individuals or groups to spread propaganda and deception.
Perception and Personal Crisis
Perception plays a big part in a personal crisis. When a crisis comes, one's reaction largely depends on how he or she perceives the problem. This is why people in the field of counseling try to talk it out with people in crisis to challenge their perception of the problem. People with a negative perception tend to react negatively against the situation they are in. In the same way, people with positive perceptions act accordingly. The change one's negative perception to a more positive one plays a significant role in changing the person's behavior throughout the crisis.
© 2010 Red Fernan