Navigate the Illusion of RealityJul 21, 2023
Humans continuously process an incredible amount of information from the world around us. However, our perception of the world does not accurately represent objective reality. Many argue it is not possible to perceive reality in its objective form.1 Let's explore some key factors that contribute to this phenomenon.
Our brains are wired to perceive events and patterns linearly.2 This bias leads us to believe that changes and progress consistently occur in a 1 to 1 fashion. Humans tend to think and process information in linear paths and solutions. In reality, many phenomena in the world follow nonlinear patterns. Consider how exponential growth curves challenge our linear thinking.
Exponential Growth Curves
Exponential growth can be deceiving because the growth appears slow at first, but as time goes on, the growth becomes exponential and, in some cases, even explosive. In the case of human perception, we have difficulty grasping that slight changes in initial conditions (though they seem meaningless at the time) could radically change the outcome.3 This is evident in various areas, such as technological advancement and population growth. Our difficulty in grasping the true nature of exponential growth often results in underestimating or overlooking the potential impact of various trends and developments.
We might believe that the initial efforts put forth are wasted because we don't see immediate results. But over time, the result becomes explosive.
Logarithmic Growth Curves
On the flip side, logarithmic growth curves can also be perplexing. Initially, growth appears rapid, but over time, it levels off. As logarithmic growth progresses toward its upper limit, the rate of change becomes increasingly gradual. Our perception is more sensitive to rapid changes, while slower changes are less detectable. This leads individuals to perceive stability or saturation even when the growth continues. Logarithmic growth can hide potential tipping points or critical thresholds. This perception error can lead us to believe that specific changes or improvements will continue indefinitely when, in reality, they are bound to plateau at some point.
This is often why we don't stick to a workout plan. Initially, we see results. But then, we come to a point where results plateau. We have to do double the work to get the same success rate.
Our brains tend to seek information confirming our beliefs and filter out contradictory evidence.4 This confirmation bias affects how we perceive the world, making it challenging to see beyond our preconceived notions and consider alternative perspectives.
For example, imagine someone believing that eating organic products significantly improves their health and well-being. They may seek out information that supports the benefits of organic food consumption. At the same time, they might overlook or downplay scientific studies or information that raises questions about the health benefits of organic food. They may also ignore reports that organic food raises environmental concerns. In this case, the individual with the confirmation bias is not likely to change their eating habits regardless of information running counter to their belief.
When we encounter information or experiences contradicting our beliefs, we may experience cognitive dissonance – a state of mental discomfort.5 We become uncomfortable when we hold conflicting ideas. To alleviate this discomfort, we tend to rationalize or reject conflicting information rather than adjust our beliefs to align with reality.
Humans naturally attribute success and positive outcomes to their abilities and efforts while blaming external factors for failures. This self-serving bias can distort our perception of reality, preventing us from acknowledging the role of chance, circumstances, and the contributions of others in our achievements.
Emotional and Psychological Influences
Our emotional state and psychological well-being significantly impact our perception. Our perception tends to become skewed when we feel anxious, stressed, or upset. We may focus on negative aspects, ignoring positive elements. Depending on our state of mind at the time of the perception, our responses to perception can vary widely.
In conclusion, perception is a complex interplay of cognitive biases, emotional factors, and the inherent limitations of the human brain. The result is a subjective lens through which we experience and interpret the world. Hence, we all have a unique bend in how the world looks.
By developing self-awareness and an open mindset, we can approach life with a clearer understanding of ourselves and the world around us. Embracing curiosity, questioning our assumptions, and seeking out diverse perspectives are essential to embracing a more objective reality.
The path to personal growth lies in acknowledging our limitations and actively and intently working towards expanding our perception. Embrace failure as a teacher, connect and engage with authentic relationships, allow love to guide us, and experience each moment deeply.
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1.Hoffman, D. D. (2019). The Case Against Reality: Why Evolution Hid the Truth from Our Eyes. W. W. Norton & Company.
2. Shaikh, E. (2023). A Study of Human Linear Abstraction and It's Contextual Application.
3. Gleick, J. (1987). Chaos: Making a New Science. Penguin Books.
4. Wason, P. C., & van der Henst, J. B. (2003). Confirmation bias: A ubiquitous phenomenon in many guises. Review of General Psychology, 7(2), 145-156. doi:10.1037/1089-26184.108.40.206
5. Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. Stanford University Press.
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