Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Needs-Wants-Beliefs (7): perception = reality

In his 25 October 2016 GPF newsletter, George Friedman makes a casual remark: “There is a saying that perception is reality.” His comments are about the perceived and real strength of Russia and its army. Last week, I got upset with someone’s behaviour as I perceived that behaviour to be a copy of my past experiences (ie, reality). I misread that person’s behaviour because our perception is often our reality.

Independent, 2014: “Perception is reality. It’s entirely appropriate that it was a political strategist who coined this phrase in the 1980s, and election campaigns ever since have been played out according to this tenet. Lee Atwater, the man responsible for the phrase, worked on George Bush Senior‘s campaign in 1988, in which Bush turned round a 17-point deficit to claim the White House.”

Last week, I watched the crime movie “Nine Queens” (IMDb) on Netflix. During the movie, my perception of what was happening slowly changed and I did no longer believe the reality that I saw. I was convinced that there was a layer underneath. My perception became my reality. Fortunately, my belief in my perception did not let me down in the last few minutes of that movie.

The (vulnerability of the) complexity of the human mind allows us to create our own reality in which we then believe. Other primates (ie, apes, monkeys) show behaviour (eg, 3 minute TED video) that puts them in the Wants stage. Some of these other primates even come “close” to human beliefs. A 2016 Japanese study finally showed that apes have “the theory of mind – the ability to attribute desires, intentions, and knowledge to others” (eg, Nature, Science).

The “perception = reality” saying also applies to the ancient book The Art of War, by the Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher Sun Tzu. A Sun Tzu quote on “perception = reality”: “All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when we are able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must appear inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.”

One could even argue that evil in this world is usually along the lines of perception, while good is often along the lines of reality. This might even explain why we spend time “reading” a person’s true intentions (eg, the eyes are the mirror of the soul). Subconsciously, we are aware of this “perception = reality” trap. Still, financial crimes are often based upon deception and perception: embezzlement, forgery, fraud, identity theft, Ponzi schemes, scams, tax evasion.

I think, feel and believe that our ability to separate perception from reality is the fundamental reason why humans developed beliefs and the extreme beliefs of the 7 Belief systems (ie, Love, Money, Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Science and the Truth.

I am convinced that the (vulnerability of the) complexity of the human mind was leading in achieving that ability.

Note: all italic markings are mine.


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