We all perceive reality different, according to our unique perception of that reality, from our personal position of awareness. It may be surprising for you to find out that our assumptions and prejudgments guide our perceptions, interpretations, and recall far more than may be envisioned. We will discuss the different ways in which our perceptions have a direct effect on our beliefs concerning what is and what is not.
Our memory system is a web of associations and priming is the awakening or activating of certain associations. Priming experiments have been showed to reveal how one thought, even if we are not consciously aware, can influence another thought or action. Oftentimes, our thinking and acting are primed by events that we are not even aware of. Consider the following examples:
- After watching a scary movie, a person will have a heightened sense of every little sound that she or she hears, with the impulse that it may be of some nefarious origin
- When someone is in a depressed mood, they will prime negative associations, such as, seeing others’ behaviors more sinister than they did before they were depressed
- Being exposed to seeing a large amount of violence will prime an individual to interpret something as someone accidentally bumping into them on the sidewalk, to being a purposeful aggressive action against them
Understanding priming is important because much of our social information processing is automatic, unintentional, out of sight, and without awareness.
Perceiving and Interpreting Events
Although humans have a remarkable tendency to being fairly accurate in their perceptions and interpretations of events and external stimuli (perhaps thanks to intuition or extra sensory perception), we also have a tendency to perceive events and interpret them according to satisfy our prejudgements and predispositions with which we live comfortably believing in. This could also be attributed to the ego, the false Self of the individual, trying to dominate and survive. An example of this in action would be when a sports fan perceives a referee as being partial to the opposing team. The assumptions we manifest concerning reality and the world around us can even make contradictory evidence seem supportive. This can be specified as the factor in the cause of so much conflict in the areas of religion, politics, and science.
Research has shown that it is quite difficult to do away with a falsehood once an individual comes up with a rationale for it. An example of this would be when the first copies of bibles created by the newly-invented Gutenberg printing press went on sale, his partner that brought the bibles to a certain town was accused of being a witch, because only by black magic would it have been possible to so perfectly reproduce copies such as the ones he had, and that the printing press must be an instrument of the devil. Individuals will retain their invented explanations for their beliefs because of their ego not willing to surrender to the possibility that they are wrong and would have to shift their paradigm. Even after being thoroughly discredited, a firmly-instilled belief will be very difficult to change. Studies have shown that it is easier to formulate a belief than change a belief already formulated. This can explain why there are so many peculiar beliefs surrounding a myriad of things still today. The more we examine our theories and explain how they might be true, the more closed we become to information that challenges our beliefs. This is important to remember, so that we keep an open mind all the time and welcome different positions of awareness concerning a particular subject rather than keeping rigidly to one particular perception of an issue.
Another demonstration of perception affecting belief is the tendency for confirmation bias, in which we search for information that confirms our preconceptions. Individuals tend to not seek information that might disprove what they believe. This may be a product of some sort of unconscious fear of “what if” scenarios, where we think “what if what I believed all these years turns out to be untrue, was I living a lie and wasting my life away?” or some similar fear-based thoughts. When Copernicus proved that the earth was not the center of the universe and that it revolved around the sun, there was fierce opposition among many who believed in earth being the most important creation in the universe, by using the Judeo-Christian bible as the evidence to back up their confirmation bias. We are eager to verify our beliefs but not seek evidence that might disprove them, as a result. A way to overcome the confirmation bias that we have is to be wary of dogmatic statements that someone claims as being absolute truth. In a quantum reality, there is no such thing as absolute certainty. We can not even prove for a fact that we exist and are not just some program in holographic sand box, to give an extreme look at this issue. Even when people are absolutely sure that they are right, they may be wrong. Another great way to overcome confirmation bias is to think of one good reason why a judgment you make might be wrong. This will make you consider disconfirming information and look from the “other side of the issue” from a different position of awareness. Just remember that these are not ways in which we should undermine peoples’ reasonable self-confidence or to destroy their decisiveness. Overconfidence may bring about negative consequences, but realistic self-confidence is very adaptive and helpful.
We, as humans, make misattributions from time to time, which make differ from what the reality of the issue is. We mistakenly attribute a behavior to the wrong source at times. An example of this would be when worker productivity declines, managers will attribute this to workers being lazy. The way we make attributions gives insight into our psyche. In the example given earlier, the managers who see the workers as being lazy would seem to have a negative view on reality and see the glass as being half empty. On the other hand, if the managers saw the glass half full, they would think of other plausible reasons why worker productivity declined, such as the workplace being inefficient, unjust wages lowering worker morale, and so on. Taking a doubletake before we make an attribution will provide us with coming up with a well thought out conclusion concerning a particular situation or issue so that we do not make a false attribution.
Our perception of reality will have a direct impact on our beliefs. What we should remind ourselves is how this occurs and what the remedies for carrying false perceptions may be. The outcomes will be astounding; varying from more tolerance and understanding, to empathy, reason, and shifts in consciousness.
Source: “Perception and its effect on belief,” from peaceandloveism.com