Conceptual Understanding on Perception

Selective Attention my alters different people’s truths, though they’re observing the same experience. 

Selective attention is the cognitive process of focusing on a particular object in the environment for a certain period of time, whilst ignoring the other inputs that our brain deems unimportant in the same immediate environment. Attention is a limited resource and our as humans we biologically cannot process all the information around us at all the time, so selective attention allows us to tune out unimportant details and focus on what matters. This influences our ability to perceive the world accurately as it means we will often miss out on information that we may specifically be looking out for. But once we are told what to look for and expect, we subconsciously erase all that does not fit. This theory can be seen when we did the famous Harvard study, where we were instructed to count the number of balls thrown by a certain group – white or black. As we are so focused on counting the number of passes, many participants simply miss the gorilla that enters the scene, or the fact that the curtains change colour. This pushes us to question how if our  truths that we construct through our senses are fully accurate, did we miss something part of the bigger picture? When people devote their attention to a particular object or factor, the unexpected tends to go unnoticed even when those unexpected objects are potentially important, most noticeable or right in front of them. Because subconsciously we all individually choose what we believes is important to remember, it sometimes leads us to garnering different variations of reality where some people ‘saw more’ than others. 


The human brain’s need of sense-making subconsciously organises our observations to optimize our survival, hence making certainty challenging to attain. 

The human brain has evolved to become particularly skilled at sense-making: creating patterns out of our observations, finding human faces from inanimate objects, allocating persona’s to moving dots based on their speed and distance from each other. These few examples highlight the shortcut that our subconscious mind often takes, its ability to sense make allows us to learn and absorb information easier, though possibly warping the truth in the process. When Mr.Alchin showed the dots moving on screen, our perception of the persona created from these dots changed alongside the speed and distance the dots vibrated – the audience recognised both a female walking and a male walking simply through the alteration of the dots movement. But nonetheless, though our brain perceived the dots as walking figgures, the truth stands that they were merely dots, but our pre-existing notions of what male and female’s walk like, allowed us to extrapolate a false truth. This leads us to question, what particular types of knowledge, or areas of knowledge are most affected by the potential flaws presented in perception. Areas of Knowledge such as science and history, where knowledge is (either heavily or partially) created through people’s perception of events. It can argue that as they are greatly based on perception they can only operate within the idea of Plato’s cave, where our senses only provide us with an obscured reality, a reality constructed in our own brains, shadows on the cave wall. Only when reason to operate on the perceptions, we can get glimpses of the noumenal. When looking through this lens, then we can also assume that Maths is one of the areas of knowledge that operates within a noumenal space. This is because the methods of obtaining knowledge does not rely on perception and senses, but instead blossom off of pre-existing axioms. 


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One thought on “Conceptual Understanding on Perception

  1. Thank you Sophie for this post. You have clearly (well, I think so…) done your research by reading other people’s blogs, which is great, and you have posted your ideas in an articulate and concise manner. I recognise the thoughts about science and history and maths – I think it would help for you to illustrate them with example from your own experience, and your own perspective, to make them yours.

    Also intersted where you say “the dots moving on screen…. the audience recognised both a female walking and a male walking…. though our brain perceived the dots as walking figures, the truth stands that they were merely dots, but our pre-existing notions of what male and female’s walk like, allowed us to extrapolate a false truth”.

    I think there may be more to this – that actually it’s not as simple that the walkers are not there, and it’s not just a false truth (which is a striking combination of words). Instead, I think this calls in to question what we *mean* by ‘what’s there. So a piece of advice might be to think about digging a little deeper 🙂

    But this is a good first post -well done. great to have you in the class!


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