The Formation of Stereotypes Through Perception

Personal perception controls everything we do and defining perception looks easy on the surface. We perceive the world through our physical senses and there before create a reality where we can function. This reality has certain basic rules upon which society is agreed, like up is up, down is down and humans walk upright on two legs! As everyone depends on their five senses (taste, sight, sound, touch and smell) to guide their emotions and physical needs, they create a world which is familiar and has rules each person can actually up to actually work. Our ability to perceive is that like a sixth sense which unifies all the others.

According to scientists, the subconscious mind regularly absorbs over a billion pieces of information per second. Add to this figure a recent finding that the average person today perceives 65,000 more bits of information and stimuli per waking day than his or her foreparents did a century ago and it is not difficult to see that our brains are being bombarded at a confusing rate. That is why less than one per cent of what comes in ever reaches the conscious mind. Within a fraction of a second over 99 per cent is filtered out. What directs the filtering process is individual perceptual preference based on culture and choice.

Due to social conditioning, whatever is automatic, even from infancy, can be altered, expanded, enhanced or changed along the way to adulthood. That is why children have the least amount of learned preferences blocking their true perception. Lacking adult experience, they confront situations directly, not bothering with any tact or diplomacy. The fable of the emperor's new clothes is a case in point. While the adults were reinforcing the emperor's pretence by fawning over his new attire, it took an innocent child to point out that the new clothes were actually non-existent. The emperor was, indeed, as naked as a jay bird!

Preference filters

Through our lives, we constantly accept, decide and integrate thought processes of what we will believe and what we will reject. These preferences create the filters which block our awareness of what we do not wish to know. They accept a particular reality as true while rejecting other alternatives, no matter how true they too might be. Without such filtering, we would be inefficient and ineffective because there would be too much to concentrate on. We would be unable to decipher or decide and to focus our attention in any meaningful way. In this way we are kept in a particular location while we severely ignore others, unless they intrude upon our current perception of reality.

Sometimes we overdo the filtering process by blocking out more information than we need to. We then become almost blind to the reality of others, which locks us into various stereotypes of ignorance and bigotry. It feeds our reality and strengthens our perception but it isolates us emotionally from our world. In effect, we deceive ourselves of our worth while we derogate others. Like the youngster in the crowd yelling at the emperor and speaking the truth others chosen to ignore, we benefit when a fresh view is offered and a new challenge is met.

We need the reassurance of mutually accepted beliefs, from ourselves and our peers, since these very preferences (and prejudices) help us to develop the right level of social skills. In time we become aware of our personal filters (ie our own accepted beliefs) and periodically re-evaluate them to decide whether or not each one is still operating in our best interest. With confidence and maturity, we may find that some perceptions are not only outdated, but they were never really necessary to begin with, or could even be very harmful to achieving our objectives.

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Elaine Sihera

Author: admin

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