Perception is Subjective Because Perception is the Result of a Selective Process

Perception is Subjective Because Perception is a Selective Process

What we call reality is really a picture created by the mind to fit our expectations. It is not accurate. 

You’ve probably heard the expression, lovesick. When we fall in love, it explains the perceptive blind spot. It helps us see the very best in another person, but it also mutes the negative. It’s an excellent example of how what we experience is influenced by emotion. The same thing happens with the ingredients of imagination and memory.

Thoughts Become Your Reality

We think our senses give us our experience of reality, but this isn’t the case. Perception takes place within the mind, and it’s well-known that blind people can visualize and deaf people hear sounds in their minds.

Our five senses are just one source of data for the reality we create in our minds. Our worldview is a filter that uses memory, imagination, beliefs, and emotion to create a picture in our mind we call reality. So, it is a mistake to think this picture is an accurate representation. Rather, perception is a selective process, depending upon the filter of our worldview.

Every act of perception is to some degree an act of creation, and every act of memory is to some degree an act of imagination.”  — Oliver Sacks

Many people would agree this quote contains a great deal of truth. Reality is a picture we create with expectations that conform to our worldview or paradigm (1) parameters. There it is. We see what we expect to see.

How Perception is a Selective Process

We trust that what we experience is a clear picture of reality, but this isn’t close to the truth. Our perception is an individually crafted picture of what we want to experience. The processing of our experience takes place in our worldview.

Perception is Subjective Because of our Programming

Our worldview gets its programming from the ego and the environment. The ego houses our values and tendencies, which are hard-coded aspects of personality and instinct. The worldview also gets a large amount of programming from the cultural narrative. It is powerful and can replace and override the ego. Social media and religions control the content of the cultural narrative. So, you must learn to manage your exposure to sources of harmful programming.

Guess what? None of these mechanisms have anything to do with what is actually happening in reality. Perception is subjective because perception is a selective process of ever-changing elements. It makes you wonder how much we miss. We are exposed to so much programming from the cultural narrative it overwhelms the mind. Most of the time, we don’t realize we are being programmed. It’s the most harmful when it becomes invisible. Cue the scary music.

So, our worldview is constantly changing even though we may not realize it. Everything that happens today affects the shape of our paradigm.   Our memories change the more time that passes. We color them with emotions; we forget parts and invent some new parts.   So, memory is imagination plus emotion, which is constantly changing.

The strength of programming depends upon our level of exposure. The more exposure we have to it, the stronger it becomes. What is scary is that this kind of programming can override our natural sense of right and wrong. Cultural folklore dominated by religion can install almost any belief or value. It’s how religions get people to believe in talking snakes and walking on water. Advertisers use the same triggers to get us to buy everything from apples to ideologies.

The picture the mind creates fits our expectations, so if we encounter something that doesn’t match our expectations, the mind ignores it. If we can’t disregard it, then it must be a hallucination. Right?

How Memory is Imagination

Is imagination the foundation of memory? Yes, it is. Our memory uses the same processes and areas of the brain as our imagination, so it is no wonder what we recall can be far from what actually happened.

The mind and brain are not the same thing. The brain is like a radio; It is the receiver. The mind is consciousness, which carries the signal or energy. You can’t find the music playing on the radio by taking the radio apart. You won’t find the music that way. The music comes through the signal being transmitted to the radio. The question is, where does the signal of consciousness originate? Good question. No one really knows.

perception is a selective process

There are three types of memory: immediate, short-term, and long-term. There is a lot of processing going on, and the accuracy of memory differs. Immediate memory is discarded if it is not useful, and short-term memories are deleted when they are not accessed regularly. If you use dynamic memory techniques, you can build your own structures and decide on what is important.

Everything that happens is not saved to memory. Immediate memory is transient and flexible. Most of it is deleted in 24 hours. If the mind determines it is valuable, it is moved to short-term memory.

The mind uses a sliding scale to determine level value. Emotions infuse memories with importance. Our level of awareness at the time of the event will impact our ability to recall them. Our mental health, dreams, and new experiences all influence memory. One thing is for sure. Our memories are not an accurate picture of reality. Memories are a distorted form of time travel.

Memory works with imagination to create a mental picture of the past event, but time, emotion, events, and cultural programming skew this picture. How does this work?

First, the passage of time distorts our memory. The older the memory, the more likely it is to become distorted. This is why witness statements need to be taken as soon as possible in any investigation. Time degrades the accuracy of memory. Emotional trauma also affects the accuracy of memory. So, eyewitness recollection isn’t that accurate to begin with and becomes less reliable as time passes.

Second, the emotion associated with memory can change it. Memories can evoke positive, negative, or a combination of both feelings, and our emotional attachments to them can change.

Third, our cultural programming colors memory. This programming can be changed or removed, thus changing the emotional attachment and the memory of the event. It’s how people believed they were on the side of God when they tortured and burned people they thought were Witches.

Fourth, current events impact our memory. As we store new data in our immediate memory, we move older, similar data to short-term memory. We often truncate and minimize this information to save space when we transfer this information. You can remember everything that happened in the last hours, but most people cannot recall every detail of yesterday’s events.

Dreams also affect our memories. The subconscious mind pulls on data from all sources to create the dream landscape. The cultural narrative continually bombards us with all kinds of propaganda. They design advertising to generate a need for which they have a product. Catchy and memorable slogans and images help these programmed needs surface and drive our buying behavior.

A lot is going on with memory. Our imagination is the machinery that molds everything together. We imagine this or that happened. We think it was real, but was it? Then, we file it away as a memory, where our imagination plays with it to make it better. Perhaps it’s the same when recalling it again, but it is more than likely somewhat different. Still, we perceive it as what happened. What went into memory was inaccurate, and what came out is even more distorted.

So, we know perception is subjective because it involves data coming from multiple layers or sources. Pictures make it easier to see. Here is a graphic to show the intricate layers of the mind.

Enneagram w cultural narrative

Imagination Plus Emotion

The limits of our paradigm are the limits of our possibilities. Our imagination can break down these boundaries if we train it. Our emotion is the fuel of invention. But some people want to control the input to control what we think and to limit our use of imagination. Imagination and creativity are dangerous for those who want to control their thoughts.

Three primary sources shape our worldview in our modern culture: organized religions, the advertising industry, and harmful forms of social media. We are subjected to programming from these sources throughout our lives.   As children, we don’t even notice this programming is taking place. The values and desires they program become a part of our psyche structures. They want us to buy what they sell.

Religion programs people to reject anything that challenges the paradigm. It triggers the same level of anxiety as if we were facing a life-threatening event. It uses this fear to justify prejudice and discrimination. Your thoughts become your reality regardless of whether they make sense.

Relationship Between Reason and Religion

Religious beliefs affect our ability to use common sense and reasoning. Studies show there is an inverse relationship between the level of religious belief and the ability to think rationally. That means the more entrenched someone becomes in religion, the less they can use common sense. Want to think more clearly? Do not join a religion.

Thus, the more extreme your religious beliefs, the less you perceive ideas outside the paradigm. The more drastic your views, the more likely you will reject facts and opinions that conflict with your worldview. You become a puppet of the belief system. You react with fear or hate when you encounter any idea or fact that challenges any boundary.

Western Organized Religion uses several propaganda tools to program people. Because perception results from a selective process, propaganda skews what we choose. Harmful programming contaminates thinking and values. It establishes values and limitations on thinking, telling us what is wrong and right. It often dictates social values that have ripple effects throughout society. Its impact on your life depends on how emotionally invested you are in its propositions.

The Abrahamic religions are known for selling hate, wars, and genocide. They promote discrimination of race, ethnicity, and gender. Yet, they proclaim they are agents of love. Those invested in these paradigms cherry-pick the doctrines to fit their bias and prejudice.

Imagination Plus Emotion to Overcome Reason

The misuse of imagination can be a mask that hides our ability to use reason and common sense.   If you can program people to believe mythology is factual, you can control their thinking and values.

Mark Twain could see through the programming.

“You believe in a book that has talking animals, wizards, witches, demons, sticks turning into snakes, burning bushes, food falling from the sky.  And you say we are the ones that need help?” ― Mark Twain

Here’s how it works: Western Organized Religion programs people to trigger the fight-or-flight response. They use this response to protect their beliefs. It creates boundaries to anything that threatens ideas that contradict the religion’s doctrine. The more rigid, inflexible, and extreme your religious beliefs, the less you can consider new ideas. Anything outside the boundaries of your paradigm is taboo.

Determining the Level of Religious Programming

You can tell how invested your paradigm is by emotionally reacting to ideas that challenge it. Since perception is a selective process, everyone’s programming is different. Here are some questions to help you see how much programming you have:

  • Do you need to defend your religious beliefs?
  • Are you prohibited from investigating new ideas?
  • Are you obligated to attend meetings and perform specific rituals?
  • Do you have adverse emotional reactions to ideas that differ from yours?

If you answer yes to the above questions, this is a sign you are affected by negative religious programming.

Perception is a Selective Process of Reality

The Shamanic journey is an example of how we can use imagination as a tool. With this process, you create and move through a landscape created by the mind. Many people say this is another example of non-ordinary reality. Our dreams are proof of non-ordinary reality.

The Shaman shows us how we can traverse other realms of existence. They describe upper and lower worlds and a middle world that exists alongside normal reality. In ancient times, people sought a Shaman to help them sort out these factors. Some shamans could help people through their inward journey. They assisted them in interpreting the subconscious mind. They even developed practices to untangle and release memory connections holding people hostage.

In Conclusion

An equation helps us understand how our psyche works. Our perception is a blending of programming, expectation, and memory. And memory is imagination plus emotion. No wonder we get things mixed up.

This also helps us see how easy it is to get things mixed up. We forget stuff, and what we remember is likely inaccurate.   Reality offers many possibilities, and the boundaries of our paradigm are what limit our ability to perceive them. Perception is a mental process, not an accurate picture of reality.

It all comes down to one formula: perception is subjective because perception results from a selective process.


(1) Paradigm: Wikipedia