10/20 We Perceive What We Believe

Our friend Mona sent these drawings she’d done of the moon–one with her glasses on and the other with them off.  We thought it perfectly captured how a simple shift of focus can completely change how we see things.  We also thought that, with things as polarized as they are not just in the US but everywhere around the world, it was a good time to poke at human perception.

We start out by saying that that is an easy thing to do.  This is partly because of a natural but sometimes inconvenient thing called the confirmation bias–our tendency to only see information in our environment that supports our expectations.  As Rebecca’s husband KC is fond of saying, “We perceive what we believe”.  

The confirmation bias is not a bad thing in and of itself.  It is a shortcut we take to process to all the overwhelming information that we are bombarded with.  However, it become problematic because it leads us to cherry pick what fits into our beliefs and overlook things that do not.  In addition, because the confirmation bias happens mostly unconsciously, we are usually not even aware that it is happening.

Perhaps you can imagine where we’re headed with this but we’ll spell it out anyway-with politics as polarized as they are (not just in the US but in many parts of the world), we really need to find ways to challenge our assumptions and perceptions.   As our Serbian friend Olga says, if you do not unpack your beliefs, you cannot experience anything new.

Mind you, we are simplifying things.  We do not want to overlook the fact that our beliefs are often based in our values.  However, it may be more important to find what values we share before we assume that people who share different beliefs have no values at all.   We want to reign in our tendency to jump to extremes so that, even we when feel strongly about our beliefs, we can find ways to allow for other people to have theirs.

So how do we challenge the confirmation bias and challenge our beliefs?  We do what Mona did–we find new ways to look at things.  We take off our glasses, turn things upside down, ask questions, get other sources of input, examine our assumptions, consider other possibilities, etc.

As we say this, we send our blessings to everyone in our country and in the world and leave you with this quote by 19th century Scottish writer and minister Ian Maclaren, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.  Be Kind.”

Positively Yours, Rebecca & Gioia

Art activity
Draw symbols for the things that you value and feel strongly about.  If you wear glasses, take them off.  If you don’t wear glasses, either squint at the image so that it is fuzzy or put it across the room so that you can’t see the details anymore.  You can also take a picture of it and see if it looks different in a photo.  Notice what pops out and what recedes, how the shapes relate to each other.  Redraw the image with this new “lens” (i.e., glasses off, fuzzy, far away, etc.).  Compare the two images and notice any shifts in how your mind, with a different lens, “sees” the things you think are important.  Share your responses if you’d like on our  Facebook page.  We’d love to see them.