Perception: Disconnects, Distortions and Deficiencies
We often hear that seeing is believing, but should we always believe what we see? Our distorted perceptions can be superficial and unduly influenced by past experiences. Architects, IT professionals and security personnel can “see” the same office, but what registers and remains with them varies significantly. We see through our filters. We select a narrow slice of reality under the guise that we already “know” what is key. Even if we collect a broad scan, we typically retain only 90% of what we see.
To compound our distorted perceptions problem, what we do retain is not always accurate. These perceptional deficiencies can be addressed in several ways:
- We have a perception deficiency that is best addressed by asking others what they see. Visual allusions, like the one below, illustrate that there are multiple correct views of see the same reality. Some may focus on the vase, while others see two profiles. Accepting that there is another point of view increases our ability to understand current realities.
- We can overcome perceptual distortions by avoiding stereotypes. Generalized judgments gloss over distinctions and offer the false illusion of uniformity. Stereotypes also encourage simplistic thinking and undue confidence that things are under control. Stereotypical labels also reduce the potential for respect. Kierkegaard captured this reality when he stated: “Once you label me, you negate me.” Labels transform the other person into one of “THEM,” which is an impersonal abstraction. Stereotypes blind us.
Perception disconnect are also based on fixed perceptions. Our world is becoming more complex, integrated and agile, and that fixed perceptions limit our ability to collect information and recognize interactions. Holding a fixed or narrow view means that we misapply our perceived knowledge. Convinced that our perceived knowledge we refuse to pivot or adjust our views. Instead of listening we merely seek agreement. When others recognize our stubborn view, they fail to introduce new perspectives since it seems wise not to not “rock the boat.” Fixed views produce overlooked opportunities and alternatives.
We get our eyes examined to ensure that we see clearly. We must also test our perceptions. For as Thoreau noted: “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” We must continually test our perception before we accept what we see at first glance is all that there is to see. To paraphrase Pogo: we have met the enemy and he is us.