What is really there…? Perception

We humans often operate in a world of selective seeing/listening/feeling/etc.

This is different from selective perception, which is defined as a much more automatic response.  Selective perception allows us to focus on a conversation with a friend instead of really hearing the background sounds on a subway or in a restaurant. The same is true of actual colors of an

Perception - Four red shirts
Four “red” shirts

article of clothing. Regardless of the hue, red is red and yellow is yellow. Selective seeing (or listening, and so on) is a much more insidious beast. This is us perceiving what we want to notice or which best aligns with our deeply held beliefs. In other words, once our minds are made up, we tend to find information that is in agreement with our existing ideas.

Stop and think about that. Unless of course you’ve already made up your mind, in which case, pay no further attention here, as you really won’t anyway. Stop and think….

just how often do we actually do that? So much of our perception of the world comes from preconceived ideas or existing memories. Do a little research and you find that in some cases as much as two-thirds of what we see is actually derived from memory. The older you are the higher that fraction. (This isn’t a scientific treatise. Any readers longing for real depth on this matter I’d suggest hunting down a couple of books to broaden your perception thereof.) In a similar way, we tend to seek out information and data that support how we already understand the world. This can and does produce a misconstrued version of reality, and we’re not generally aware we are doing it.

It becomes quite easy to adapt very contrary information into the narrative you write as if it were  supporting your belief instead of denying it.

In fact, you might be passed information for just such a purpose. Such a deception might present as a sale or a limited time offer (and some actually are). These deceptions align with your sense of saving money now while actually causing you to spend outside your budget. You create your own narrative and you adapt your actions to your belief system, that while potentially flawed, supports your desire to save money, i.e., by buying this item that is on sale now, I’ll save money later, irregardless of whether you can actually afford that item at any price based on your known budget right now.

Perceived value works similarly to this. Often times such perceptions create an artificially inflated price based on subjectivity that insinuates that a higher price gets you a better product or service. Sometimes it does. Much of the time it does not. That’s what makes these sorts of things so treacherous. Sometimes, actual facts are presented, at other times it is the truths of someone else, cloaked in the sheep’s clothing of your own desire.

I’ll now apply the above reflections on the subject to music and the act of listening. When did you last actually hear a distinct guitar part, drum rhythm, or even vocal passage…? When did you last hear a distinct artist?

Of course, they are all unique and distinct, right? Some desperately try to emulate and sound like someone else. Still, when you listen closely you can usually differentiate between artists quite easily, especially if you are familiar with their work. When was the last time you actually listened, really listened? Obviously, you don’t need to really listen to enjoy something.  That aside, what did you get out of the experience when you did pay close attention?

It’s completely possible that when you really listen intently you might like a particular song or track less than you did to begin with…. That’s part of the process. You might also come to appreciate it on a deeper level with a broader understanding of what it is that you like about the piece of music, and about music in general. Try it. Take a piece of music you really love and listen intently. No multitasking, no checking your phone, no humming along… just listen, really listen…

Did you go beyond what your preconceptions were? 

Especially if you chose a piece you’ve listened to a lot it can be extremely hard to get past what you already decided this experience would be. That said, if you can, that’s where it can get really good. Shaking lose well honed preconceptions, well written narratives, and deeply held beliefs is sometimes quite hard. By doing so we force ourselves to challenge everything we believe in. That’s heavy. It’s deep. Damned rewarding if you’ve the stomach for it. You really do start to actually see/hear/feel/taste/love with new depth and new appreciation. It also makes you less susceptible to being fooled by the ongoing narratives that swirl around us constantly…. And that can be a good thing…

Your mileage may vary.



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