Perception is a process by which we gather information coming from our senses, organize and interpret it to give meaning to our environment.
The amount of information around us is massive, so we don’t have either time or capacity to gather, process and understand it all. Therefore, the reality we perceive is inaccurate since there are a lot of data we don’t consider.
Selective and culturally influenced
In the process of simplifying what we perceive, we unconsciously select some pieces of information over others. That selection is defined by many factors, such as our culture, our interests, and our bias.
Culture shapes our shared beliefs, way of thinking, and the way we establish relationships. It influences our social norms and our behavior. Therefore, our culture alters our perception about the world.
For example, some studies have shown that Asian and Western cultures differ in the judgment of relative and absolute sizing of objects. Asian people recall background context and relative size more accurately, while the Westerns more accurately perceive the absolute size.
Moreover, since culture is learned, the way we perceive the world is also learned. We are trained since childhood to pay attention to certain things and no others, and unless we raise our consciousness about this fact, our interpretation of reality will always be the same.
If the former is true, we can agree that our behavior is based on our perception of reality, and not on reality itself. This forms a frame that sets the tone for what we are considering.
Thus, framing have a considerable impact on our sub-conscious decision-making, including the way we communicate, how we define problems, how we establish relationships and how we build our expectations.
Understanding this can help us go from disagreement to collaboration in a conflict.
From disagreement to collaboration
Some time ago, I wrote about the importance of being open to different perspectives, even in the worst of the conflicts, if we want to find a solution.
In the search of this openness, knowing about how our perception shapes a reality that is different from other’s reality helps in building self-awareness and empathy.
Looking at the complexity of things, we could realize that other people can see things differently. Thus, being right or wrong should not be the debate anymore.
Collaboration is essentially the intention to pay attention to these differences to find a common ground from which we can build something together.
If right or wrong are non-applicable terms when consider reality, maybe the question we should consider instead is how my perception is helping me in addressing this situation correctly, and what I can learn from others’ approach.