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Our perceptions, other people's perceptions.

Is there such a thing as an independent reality?

Okay, philosophy majors, don't answer that; I'm just setting the scene.

Several people I've talked to, recently, have had difficulties with perception. One, in particular, is afraid everyone hates her, just because she does. Another thought it was okay to say something harsh, simply because people frequently speak that way to her. The perception of the person on the receiving end was discounted, entirely.

All of our sensory input is filtered through how we already perceive the world to be. No wonder it's so difficult to change our views! The system is built to prevent it. Now, a professor might emphasize that any learning system that abstracts information (which any system must do, if it wants to avoid storing and reviewing all of the information, every time) must have this feature. A generalization can't change with each new input, or you might as well just remember what happened last, and not learn anything at all.

So, for instance, if you get bitten by a dog a couple of times, you learn that dogs are dangerous. You don't unlearn it just because the next dog is friendly. Yet, it's important to unlearn it eventually, because most dogs are friendly, when treated well. The issue is that the wrong conclusion was reached by the initial exposures: instead of "dogs are dangerous", it should be more like "dogs should be treated with respect".

In the other direction, we often mistake how other people will perceive our words and actions. After all, we're not them; all we have, on which to base our guess about how they will feel, is how we think we would feel, in the same situation. In other words, we project our response onto them.

This may work, if the people are similar enough, but of course, it doesn't become an issue until it doesn't work. At that point, it may be very difficult for either party to understand the other's actions. Each one assumes information about the other person's intentions that they don't actually have, and may never be able to unlearn those assumptions.

I guess the conclusion of all that is we have to keep an open mind about our past conclusions. Being human, some of those conclusions are bound to be mistaken. The trick is to find a balance between what you think you know and what you know you don't know.


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I think it's also important to remember that at the time one is "perceiving" it......perception is truth. I agree with everything you said above but I just want to take it a step further. That is.....to be patient, tolerant, and respectful of others' perceptions. Because those acts that define our perceptions can be very traumatic and cause much fear and anxiety, we must be mindful that no matter how "off" the perception may seem, we must challenge it with respect and compassion in as supportive way as possible.

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