Friday, 18 October 2013

Lessons from Psychology: Reality

It has been long since I wrote here. 

I would break the link and write from my recent learnings.

Different interpretations and resulting misunderstandings are normal and happen with almost all of us. I was looking for explanation why do I differ in evaluating what is happening around me or extracting meaning of what is being said, with limited success.

Recent study in psychology helps me to understand the reasons.

People living together normally experience these situations. They differ from each other when it comes to interpreting events taking place around both of them. One sentence makes multiple meanings to different people.

Professor described the topic as “Psychological construction of reality”. He said, one of the most basic questions we can ask about two people is whether they share the same “reality”. Whether they see the same thing when they are both looking at one. Whether they hear the same thing when they are both listening to it.
Psychologists say in daily life, we typically assume that other people share our “reality” and to a great extent they do, but not always and not completely.

Our perceptions and meanings we associate to the same, are powerfully influenced by our experiences, by context, by where we focus, expectations, motivations, and many other factors. In other words, our experience of “reality” is psychologically constructed.

We often see what we expect to see, and don't see what we don't expect to see.

Can we see what is absurd in these images?

 

Our perceptions are not just a matter of our expectations; they are also linked to what are our motivations. That is, we often see what we want to see and don't see what we don't want to see.

Papa used to describe a court scene where counsel asks a witness who had broken down “તમે શું કામ રડો છો, તમે મારી છે?” Add emphasis on second half of question and you have a meaning “why are you crying, you have not killed her. Now replace this question mark by a full stop and add emphasis on first half of sentence. It will mean “You have killed her, why are you crying”. One can add emphasis where he wants to add and make different meaning, holding the witness innocent or guilty depending on one’s motivation.

Our perceptions are affected by what we expect to see, by what we want to see, by what we're paying attention to and so forth.

According to the researchers, it's inaccurate and misleading to say that different people have different attitudes concerning the same thing, for the “thing” simply is not the same for different people, whether the thing is a football game, a prime ministerial candidate, political leanings, or tastes.

We also become blind to changes taking place in the vicinity of what we are focusing on while interpreting the same. We could be focusing on specific aspects in happenings in our surrounding or looking for specific information from what is being told to us. Psychologists call this change blindness.

This point is explained very effectively in a video which we can find at this link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=voAntzB7EwE. This comes from British psychologist and professional magician Richard Wiseman. In this case, it was blindness to changes in color made while our attention was focused elsewhere. Perceptions can also be influenced even when our attention is focused directly on the item of interest.

We evaluate “realities” subjectively and come to conclusions which we want to arrive at. In nut shell, our perceptions, conclusions, meanings are a joint function of what's going on out there and what's going on within us. What is therefore required for bringing peace to our daily life is that we evaluate our realities more objectively; keeping in mind others may have their own reasons to interpret the same realities.


Comments and discussions are welcome.