Perception serves more than one purpose to the human experience. Wikipedia defines Perception as – the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory information in order to represent and understand the environment. This definition unfortunately describes only one of the services perception provides. I would like to offer instead the definition – Perception is a collection of data filters, some natural but most created by education and experience, which serve to shape and enforce limits on sensory and intellectual data that is considered to provide the individual a world view in which to operate within. Similar definitions yes, but the differences are critical.
In the Wikipedia definition, perception is nothing more than an interpreter of sensory information. It implies that all sensory information is considered, and considered equally. Additionally it implies that intellectual data such as words, symbols, and events are not subject to perceptional filters. These critical omissions remove from view that perception is subjective and subordinate to the human intellect, a key concept in the road to higher enlightenment which I will discuss in future posts.
Perception provides to the human experience with:
– A world view to determine what sensory and intellectual data to consider and what to discard based upon (representative, not all inclusive):
Ability to effect
Protection against Cognitive Dissonance
– Relative importance of the sensory and intellectual data permitted for consideration
– Relative confidence of the truthfulness of the sensory and intellectual data permitted for consideration
– Provides a world view to screen possible conclusions, implications, or meanings resulting from considered sensory and intellectual data for inclusion or discarding
– Provides a world view to shape and enforce limits on imagination – (Known as Perceptual Imagination Limits)
Cognitive Dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. Knowledge of the Perception, Instinct, Feeling, Thought, and Behavior (PIFTB) Cycle (See details on the Dragontamers Website) shows us that information we received is first filtered in the perception phase to report to our intellectual centers and make “sense” out of the information input we constantly receive. This is an ongoing and continuous process that we really never notice unless an events causing Cognitive Dissonance takes place. Mild Cognitive Dissonance events actually take place quite commonly in our everyday world. Two examples I offer for your consideration is when a person receives information from their senses they cannot automatically place into their current world view. The second is when another person expresses an intellectual interpretation of an event that does not fit into the persons world view.
To describe the first event I would like the reader to imagine the following: One day while walking down the street you noticed what appears to be a large bird pecking at a fictional animal from the TV Series Star Trek called a Tribble. This is quite confusing since you know Tribbles are fictional, yet you see one with the bird. Not quite believing your eyes, you move in for a closer look. As you come up on the scene you realize that a man was standing in a parking lot below street level with a pet bird on his shoulder that is playing with the owner’s hair.
How did we make such a strange mistake? Well from the observer’s perspective, all you could actually see is what appears to be a clump of Fur on what you believe is the ground and a bird that is pecking at it. That is the sensory input you have to work with, now it is up to perception to make sense out of that image. Most of us have never seen someone walking around with a large bird on their shoulder, especially with the added limitation that you can only see the person’s hair. To make sense of the image the perception process reaches into your memory and attempts to locate some matching memories. The bird is pretty easy, but the first match your mind makes for the lump of fur is that it resembles a fictional creature called a Tribble as seen on the TV series StarTrek. So perception presents to your awareness a bird picking at a Tribble. Since you know Tibbles are fictional, you experience a moment of Cognitive Dissonance because what you perceive you see does not fit into your world view as a real possibility.
In the second example I am going to talk about a situation I personally experienced. While doing some work at the Navy Yard in Washington DC, I heard some loud bangs and thumps that sounded to me like the unloading of a dumpster from a truck. Upon hearing the same sounds, my colleagues immediately packed their belongings to leave the building. When I asked them why they were leaving suddenly, they pointed out the same sounds I just heard and left. I later learned that all of them had been in the building at the time of the Navy Yard shooting. What struck me as interesting was how my experience as a retired Marine who has been shot at and been around fire arms for decades didn’t hear any threat in the sounds, but instead perceived them as sounds from a trash truck, while these folks became very agitated and perceived the sounds at least as another possible shooter. Upon my personal review of this event I realized that the perception of the sounds as a dumpster truck was in part because I saw one of these types of trucks pull up to the rear of the building on my way in. What does this show us? That same data can be, and often is, perceived differently by different individuals based upon both experience and education.
Now that you have insight on the perception process, let’s take a look at the perception filters. First thing I need to say about filters is that it is natural to have them. When I say natural I mean that any given individual living in any environment will develop a set of filters unique to that environment that allows them to function within that environment easily and most often perceiving information in a useful manner. The next point I need to make about filters is that with humans they are uniquely flexible when compared to other animals on the planet. The flexibility of human perception may have been the key to human success as the dominate specie on the planet. In order for humans to be as highly adaptable as we are they need to be able to shift our perception of reality to survive in such very diverse environments. With animals, borrowing a few very exceptions, their perception is basically biologically hardwired into their existence. Often we see that animals will have a very limited view on what they perceive as food and what is dangerous. Some animals, like the panda for example are facing extinction by starving to death because human caused loss of the bamboo reduces the abundance of the only thing they perceive as food.
Another human capability which results from the flexible limits to our perception; humans can learn how to perceive the world from those we trust, such as our parents. For tens of thousands of years this capability allowed humans to move in and take over the dominate nitch in environments very different than the one we evolved in. Humans receive more education from their parents when it comes to perception then the lower animals where it is hardwired into them, but the tradeoff is certainly worth it. Without the need to spend thousands of years to evolve instincts for the new environment, humans can move in and prosper within a single generation in some of the most extreme and harsh places on earth. Like it or not, humans naturally develop our world view from our direct experience and from our education. I define education for the perception as being information we received without directly experiencing the event. Sources are primarily from a trusted form of media such as a newspaper, television, and radio, or from trusted individuals such as school teachers and parents.
Perception is also the point where many social and emotional disorders come from. Damaged or corrupted world views created in some cases from exposure to long term or extreme stressors, especially at or starting from a young age. Stressors can be anything from abuse, constant or extreme anxiety, or physical factors such as malnutrition or exposure. Less commonly the state of the environment children are raised in can also be a factor, such as those raised around extreme violence like in war zones or gang controlled areas. Depression is one of the fastest growing mental health issues in the western world. While it is certain that in some cases this condition may have a physiological root, the majority of people suffering from depression are doing so because of their world view and how it is shaping their perception. This is why even after long term treatment and the use of medications many continue to suffer from depression. Medical science can only treat the symptoms; the cure needs to come by correcting the cause.
Without a doubt it is truly a great adaptation for humans that they learn how to perceive rather than have the need for a hardwired perception like most animals, however ironically it also opens up a vulnerability that others can exploit. This once again is one of the points where this knowledge is both liberating and dangerous. When someone holds this knowledge, they could potentially reshape a person’s perception. The liberating aspect is this opens the door for individuals to intellectually guide the reshaping of their own perception. Such action can allow a person to free themselves from limiting points of view they may have picked up in their life. The dangerous aspect is a person or group of people can manipulate the information that you are exposed to, both through education and experience, to teach you a perception that servers their purposes.
We have all seen and heard of examples of this; The Communist Reeducation camps, kidnapped victims defending and in some cases joining their kidnappers, or the Hare Krishna communes. While these are extreme examples that most of will never encounter, most of us do not realize that we have very common everyday examples of folks looking to modify the perception of mass numbers of humans. Everyone has heard of them, they go under a number of familiar public names with some examples being, marketing, political slogans, public service messages, and public education.
Did I really just say public education? Oh yes… The Communist didn’t call them Reeducation Camps for nothing. Just think, if reeducation can be a method of brain washing, why can’t the initial education be one? Again westerners have looked on in horror at news reports on how some nations have based their entire education system on the teachings with in religious doctrines like the Bible or the Koran. When Saddam Hussein fell in Iraq, the world was shocked to see that public school books declared Saddam as a national hero that brought many aspects of good fortune to the Iraq people. What about America? Well one example I can give is case where students in Ohio received educational material stating that Rights are Special Privileges given to citizens by the Government and that Laws are created to keep us safe. The hand out was incredible creepy in the tone of Government as rulers over Citizens granting them liberties. What every happen to Government By the People, Of the People, For the People?
Historically Governments have been looking for methods of shaping perception in mass numbers of humans for the last few centuries and they have come up with a number of effective ways. Large International Corporations working with Governments and on their own also have developed additional methods. The Governments and the Corporations actually haven’t really made the deployment or intent of these methods a strict secret. In fact the information about this manipulation is everywhere. If this is the first you have heard of this or if you never saw any information about this published before that would be because you are drawing your information solely from approved sources, you know the ones they taught you about in school and the Evening News.
One of the most common methods of managing perception of people is to be very consistent and confident in your message. Let me explain; we draw our world view from both direct observation as well as education. Most people will never have direct contact with only a small number of the things they learn; nearly all of it comes from education. The human brain doesn’t come with a firewall and if we trust the information source or we receive supporting information we come to trust what we are told as truth. As long as the message is consistent, over time we accept these as truth. If we receive this information under stress, we are more likely to incorporate it into our world view sooner and more completely. The strange thing is this information need not make any sense in reality. This is especially true if we are taught these ideas and concepts at an early age.
I know of a religious group that banded together in Maryland to Home School their children in faith based concepts. One member of the group actually explained that they understood that if they drilled these concepts into the children without allowing them to be exposed to any contradictory concepts, by the time the children grew up their world views would be defined by these teachings. The Children were not permitted TV, radio, or contact with children outside of the church. All movies and books were carefully screened and the children were permitted to only see select publications that support the religious doctrine. The children were taught that contradictory information and evidence was placed on earth by evil entities in an attempt to draw them away from their faith. The result was that by the time the children reached the High School level, they held a world view that was 100% faith based and by its own doctrine automatically rejected contradictory concepts or information as lies. These children were unable to accept concepts such as evolution or that the earth was over 4 Billion years old. Depending upon your point of view, these children are either properly educated or they have now been crippled.
While children are especially susceptible, adults are still vulnerable as well. In the case of adults the stress of life in our modern world, combined with fears of injury or death for ourselves or family from everything from being stung by an insect to being a victim of terrorist or other criminal activity places us into a state of constant anxiety. This state of mind makes humans very receptive to consistent repetitive messages. Marketing targets this by helping shape a negative view of the individual within their world view, then offers hope to correct the situation. Don’t believe that? Ok, go into the bathroom, undress and examine your appearance. Are you 100% happy with your appearance or does it need some work?
Whether a person is forced to face a conflict in their world view because of information they have been presented, or if they purposely search for a change in perspective, the discomfort of cognitive dissonance can be very severe. I have personally seen people get physically ill during such times and I have read reports of people even becoming suicidal or homicidal while experiencing it. Evolution has provided humans with a natural filter to protect humans from cognitive dissonance by automatically filtering out and discarding information that is a contradiction to our current world view.
The fact is on an everyday basis our own perception and world view is under constant attack. Some attacks conflict with others but most follow a harmonious theme that most of us have been subjected to since we were young children. If you are not aware of these attacks, then you should be very concerned at the moment because it is likely they have been very successful in shaping your world view.
Keep in mind that the goal and purpose of Dragontamers is to end human misery. It is the whole reason I wrote this and the other articles. I tell you this so you understand the motivation and drive of this project and the conviction with which I make the next statements. It is the acceptance of the fact that most human suffering is a result of deliberate self-serving actions of other humans. The acceptance of this fact is critical to start us on the road to ending that misery. Only with the acceptance of this fact can our eyes perceive the events that are taking place right in front of us. History has shown us again and again that when one human attempts to extend their will over others it is always for the benefit of that person and at the expense of those placed under their will. This arrangement always results in decreased prosperity, health, and happiness for those subjugated. Subjugation of individual perception, the ability to create and provide a world view of your choice for others would provide you with absolute power, and we all know what absolute power does… corrupts absolutely.
Why is this important? Perception is one of the strongest and most important limitations on our life, and understanding that it is subjective, malleable, changeable, and programmable is essential for individual intellectual and spiritual growth and freedom. Most critically we need to understand that no matter how an individual obtains their world view; a human’s natural mechanisms will operate to prevent a change of perception as a protective response. Let me be clear on this point, if a person or a group were to accidently or purposely program people with a world view of their choice at an earlier enough age, only forced exposure to undeniable factual and contradictory information OR purposeful action by the individual to do so will bring about a change of that perception. It is important to note that most of the programed world views also are incorporated with a concept that all contradictory information is false and placed there by those that are in some way evil. This concept conveniently provides protection against changing the world view of the subjugated from new information.
Understanding and accepting that this vulnerability exists is critical as a human to protect yourself from being manipulated and crippled in the most insidious way.
The good news is that once you accept this truth about perception, you also start on the road to empower yourself to reprogram your own world view to perceive life in a manner useful to you. I think one of the most useful statements I have ever seen was one from a 7 year old that said when life is unfair just change the rules. The fact is a change of your perception is exactly that, you are changing the rules that govern your thoughts, actions, dreams, imagination, morals, religious views, limits to success, what success is, and your very existence. Remember that I said purposely seeking to change your world view is one of the only two known ways that a person world view will change. This change comes about as a process through a long series of smaller changes you make to the world view you currently hold. I will not deceive anyone, the process can be painful and not just because of cognitive dissonance, but as you identify those perceptions that are harmful to you emotionally, physically, financially, and in many yet to be named ways you will come to understand the source of the perception. As you begin to understand that the sources of most perceptions you hold are from a self-serving individual or group, it can cause great many deep emotional responses.
So how do you begin? First you must learn to shield yourself from the constant assaults to shape your world view. Below are a number of tasks or exercises to get you started:
- Give your mind a break from the electronics. Seriously, no TV, Radio, game stations, computer games for 30 days. This includes DVD’s, Streaming movies, social networking, sports, News Programs, etc. Marketing accounts for one of the biggest assaults on your perception, however your perception is also shaped by News Programs, Movies, even Music. Don’t cut this short!
- Spend as much time as possible outdoors. Look up! Notice the stars and night, the blue sky during the day, the clouds and the planes. Listen to the sounds of people and animals alike!
- Put away the credit cards for 90 days. Do not spend money on anything unless you do not have a choice for 30 days. When I say no choice, I mean if the car breaks down (or is due maintenance) that is no choice. Items like housing, utilities, fuel for your car, and groceries are things you need. Over the next 60 days do not use credit for any purchase.
- Try and identify things about yourself you are dissatisfied with. For many it is commonly something about our appearance, but it can also be social, financial, behavior, etc. Select the one that seems to have the biggest negative impact on your life. This will be the subject of research for you as you attempt to discover the source of the issue. Use the following two examples as a guide:
- If the issue is appearance, look in the mirror and make a list of 4 or 5 things that you feel negatively impact your appearance. Now for each of these things you need to explore why they bother you, where did you come up with the criteria to judge this thing as negative? How does it impact you? Who else sees this as a factor? Why is it important?
- If the issue is financial, it will almost always center on the stress and strains of not being able to purchase what you want or need. Too much debt? Explore why you charge things to credit. Ask yourself how much value TV options, Cell Phone options, and other things bring to your life.
- Cut out all sources of fluoride. Tap water, most tooth pastes, and most mouth washes are the common sources of fluoride for Americans. You also need to consider that many brands of bottled water are just tap water mixed with spring water; fountain soda, coffee, and tea is usually made on site from tap water as well.
- Research why I ask you to preform step number 5.
- Meditation – You will have time now that you put aside the electronics. Make the sources of the items identified in step 4 the subject of your meditation.
- Identify subjects you have opinions on and research what the other side has to say. If possible, attend an event, lecture, or even meet with those that oppose your view. If you are Pro-Life, attend a Pro-Choice Event. If you support your local police, attend a CopBlock event. If you are a Republican, attend a Democrat event. When you attend these events the idea is to listen to the opinion of the other side. Limit your input to just questions, and do not debate with the other side of the issue.
- Read the ingredients of your food. Research any ingredient you do not know.
- Identify limits in your life. What do you wish you can do but haven’t been able to? For example, you want to be a writer or start your own business but just can’t seem to get started? Why?