“The only thing verifiably objective and certain about human behavior is...…everything is subjective to some degree or another and hence, dependent upon perception (a person’s subjective view) in order to understand. Another way to put it is…context is everything - indeed, essential.” – Me!
After 35…ish years (I don't really count the first seven as my belly button was the only thing holding my interest at that time) of watching people do their respective thing, the statement above has developed into the #2 guideline for understanding and predicting Human Behavior (Bx) accurately, according to me of course. So far, I have 17 basic rules I utilize and adjust over time according to new observations. Overall, these 17 guidelines are practically gospel to me as it comes to seeing through the veil behind someone’s eyes, attempting to understand what it is they are struggling with as well as what may come next for (or from) them. The fact that I have the perception rule in the second position should suggest how utterly verifiable (and significant) this has been and continues to be.
By all means, however, don’t take my word for it now; read on a bit…and if afterward doubt still remains, open up your “watching” peepers the next time you are with a group of people. Close down the inner critic that tends to compare and contrast individuals around you, critiquing their behaviors against what you think may have been a better or worse choice, a better or worse look, a better or worse anything for that matter and just simply…watch. Observe. Observation is the most important avenue for discovering truth in the Scientific Method of exploration and it stands to reason that simply observing people in their own element would produce some noticeable similarities as well as idiosyncrasies from person to person. What you are looking for is how often two or more people seeing or experiencing the same thing will interpret the experience in completely different ways. It happens all the time!
Perception, how a person views (not physically views, but views as in point-of-view) the world, matters more than all other rules save one. I will tell you why I myself believe this to be true, if you are interested, and you can take from it what you will, those things that resonate and stick with you. Those things that do not resonate with you, toss them to the four winds of fate allowing them to fall elsewhere or, as an old sponsor drilled into my head one summer, “If you do not own something, don’t own it!” if you will.
There are two components to this subject needing to be established in order to buttress the point of my #2 rule. The first is the difference between Sensation and Perception. Contrary to popular belief, the two are not synonymous. The second component is the individual life history itself (context) and will be discussed after I beat the first component to silly proportions.
Now, given the fact that words tend to carry various meanings dependent on how they are used and to what school of thought said words are being discussed within, we will be using definitions from the discipline of Psychology. This article is about Human Bx after all and it stands to reason the study of Human Bx (the -ology of the Psych- to use a Gunslinger...ism) would produce the most applicable definitions. Three definitions regarding the first component, having to do with Sensation vs. Perception, are included below.
Stimulus - Any form of energy (sound waves, light waves, heat, pressure etc.) to which an organism is capable of responding.
Sensation - The response to a stimulus by a sensory organ.
Perception - The process of organizing, interpreting and “making sense” of information gathered by the sensory organs.
As you can see from these definitions alone, there is a major difference between Sensation and Perception. Our physical bodies, when healthy, are capable of sensing stimulus through sight, sound, taste, touch and smell up to and including all the nuances and blends that come within the working together of our sensory stations. However, there is very little control over what we sense. If our eyes are open (and are capable of sight) we see everything the eyes are focused on as well as everything else within our field of vision whether we are focused on them or not. We do not consciously recognize this, but it does indeed happen. We see a field of objects though we may focus on individual details. Our eyes do not tell us, by name and organization, the meaning of what we are seeing, they only tell us we are in fact seeing.
Perception, the working together of all the cumulative thoughts of our entire past history along with our present thinking patterns (context), is the process in which the field of vision and what said “objects” within that field of vision might mean to each of us, individually. One's Perception is the process of giving meaning to the world we are experiencing through our individual senses. Our senses do not name the light, darkness, colors and shadings we see; that is the arena of Perception. Perception is the process of naming, assigning and determining the option of responses we may have to choose from. Perception is the process of determining whether something is good or bad for us. Indeed, what we do to respond (Behavior) given what we ourselves have learned through our past associations with the objects we are seeing has more to do with our life context, than it does with the actual sensation associated with a given stimulus. Essentially, our Perception of something tells us where we as individuals are in relationship to the outside world and the objects we see, experienced through our senses.
Another example is heat. If our hands are exposed to heat, we sense it through the skin. We don’t choose to sense it. Sensation is instantaneous upon contact with the stimulus. Upon contact with a source of heat, our skin does not tell us the difference between heat from a heater, heat from a hot plate or heat from the Sun…it only recognizes the heat sensation and signals the brain said energy source is present along with its intensity and of course, to what degree the skin may actually be in danger or not ie. A heated blanket may produce a pleasurable sensation of warmth while a hot frying pan will most likely signal a pain response.
How about taste? It is the contact between the stimulus (for instance food) with our respective sensory organs (nose and tongue) that tell us something sweet and salty is present, for example. Our senses do not tell us what the food stimulus is called. Our senses do not have a database of names. Our senses do not do the thinking needed to determine what said food is labeled, nor if we actually like it. Our senses only tell us there is a stimulus present at its basest form, for instance “sweet.” This is somewhat simplistic but it will do quite nicely for the discussion.
Our brains however, do keep a database (conscious and subconscious memory) and hence, we have perception. Perception is the actual interpretation of the sensation that tells us “Oh! That heat we are feeling is from the sun!"…or a heater…or another person... or what have you. The heat itself is identified by our senses (and upon literal lightning quick reception within the brain) while our thoughts and memories perceive the differences between say, heat from the sun, or heat from the furnace, or someone sitting next to you. Our sensory organs sense or physically feel a stimulus while our brain, along with all the accompanying memories and past associations we have experienced with the particular stimulus in question, perceives/interprets the sensation.
Context – Context is everything
Every thought, every feeling, every emotion, every attitude, every reasoning; literally everything that happens within the thought world of human life (from birth until death) has a distinct biological component and is remembered (with an asterisk of course). Every single thought has an electrical and chemical corollary (which we do not completely understand) that coincides with what is considered to be The Mind and its thinking processes. Basically this means I/We (as distinct identities) are chained to our respective bodies (from birth) and thus, are chained to our individual sensations, perceptions and memories which all have a biological foundation specific to our individual body of sensations.
Furthermore, given that our experiences within our respective physical bodies are unique to us (no two people could ever truly walk in the same shoes, so to speak, as no two brains are even remotely alike considering all of the “data” and experiences we have taken in through our senses in our individual lifetimes) it stands to reason that objectivity would not be entirely possible. Complete objectivity can be sought, can be pursued and can even be achieved for a fleeting moment or two or a dozen depending on self-control factors, but sooner than one might think our respective senses begin to take over and we settle back into what WE know from our Sensations and Perception historically, as opposed to what WE think we might know about the history of others.
No two people are exactly alike.
No two people are even remotely close to being alike, based on memory alone. If we take into account the individual differences that something like the receptors involved in sight contain (which are completely unique and the exact reason why eye scans are so reliable) we can easily say that thinking objectively all the time, in every way, is completely impossible.
Now, full disclosure demands that I tell you a particular bias of my own. As well as the revelation of this bias, I will begin the contextual argument in the follow-up article coming soon.
To Be Continued…
(Why yes, yes I did, I did just do that. But don’t fret, it’s already written. Once the edits are done, we will close this one up)