Eight Ways Your Perception of Reality Is Skewed

Eight Ways Your Perception of Reality Is Skewed

via the Greater Good by Jill Suttie

Seeing is believing. To some extent, that’s true, of course: Our eyes allow us to see what’s around us, helping us navigate our world.

But it turns out sight is much more complicated than that, according to the new book Perception: How Our Bodies Shape Our Minds, by University of Virginia psychologist Dennis Proffitt and Drake Baer. What we perceive in any given moment is not only determined by sensory input, but by our personal physical abilities, energy levels, feelings, social identities, and more.

“It’s common sense to believe we experience the world as it objectively is,” the authors write. “Even though our naive intuitions are that we see the world as it is, we do not.”

It’s not just our eyesight that’s influenced by unconscious processes, either. Proffitt and Baer’s book is chock full of fascinating research findings that challenge not only the things we perceive, but the judgments and decisions we make based on what we perceive. Things that seem true and universal are often just our own unique experience of the world.

This is useful to know—especially now, when we are fighting a deadly pandemic and mired in political and social turmoil. If we understand what irrelevant factors manipulate what we see and think, we can perhaps find ways to overcome these influences and make better decisions as a society.

“If we are going to have a better understanding of ourselves and our fellow human beings, we need to appreciate the startling individuality of everyone’s experience,” write Proffitt and Baer. That means having humility. Here are eight of the many interesting take-home messages from their book.

1. Our energy and abilities impact our perspective

Several studies by Proffitt and others show that our physical bodies and our ability to move influence how we view our surroundings. For example, researchers have found that if you are obese or tired, distances look farther to you. People wearing heavy backpacks see steeper hills in front of them than those without backpacks.

“Put another way: Our walking ability shapes the apparent walkability of the hill, which determines how we see it. You do not see the hill as it is but rather as it is seen by you,” write Proffitt and Baer.

If you are holding something that extends your reach—like a grabber—things appear closer to you, too. In sports, successful baseball batters literally see bigger balls coming at them from the pitcher, and golfers who putt well see bigger holes.

This phenomenon is obvious even in young babies. That’s why, in one experiment, crawling babies showed fear when they were lowered onto a platform with a fake cliff (an apparent drop-off that was actually see-through plastic), but babies who couldn’t crawl didn’t show that same fear. They didn’t see it as scary, because, as non-crawlers, they didn’t need to worry about cliffs yet.

2. Our body awareness affects our decisions

In one experiment, researchers studied hedge fund managers who have to make quick decisions about stock trading under intense pressure. Their strange finding? Managers who could more accurately count their own heartbeats without touching their bodies were more successful traders.

People who were more confident in their accurate count, however, were not more successful, and the bigger the gap between their confidence and accuracy, the higher their anxiety. This suggests that actual awareness of your body can be useful in high-stress work situations.

While it’s uncertain why that would be, it’s possible that people who are more aware of their heartbeats are better able to calm themselves under stress and, therefore, make cooler decisions. Or it could be that successful people who are more attuned to their bodies interpret their perceptions more accurately, understanding how the two interact. Either way, these findings make a case for cultivating greater body awareness.

3. Being hungry (or not) changes our choices

Our body’s energy levels also impact decision-making. In one experiment, participants who drank a sugary drink made better decisions and delayed immediate gratification longer than people who gulped down a sweet-tasting drink without glucose. Similarly, when judges make parole decisions just before their lunch breaks or the end of their day, they tend to deny parole. That’s because a decision to grant parole requires more careful consideration—and, so, more energy.

Studies have also found that people who’ve enjoyed a tall, sugary glass of lemonade tend to be more helpful to others. And children who eat breakfast do better in school and have fewer behavioral problems.

“The way you think is endlessly tied to how you physically feel,” write the authors. So, it’s important to make sure we (or others we rely on) are not too depleted when hard decisions need to be made…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE

#happiness #happy #happier #perception #psychology