The Random Comic Strip

The Random Comic Strip

Words to live by...

"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."

[Spanish Proverb]

Ius luxuriae publice datum est

(The right to looseness has been officially given)

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."

Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Perception is reality? Or maybe not...

We are perceptive people, are we not? Actually, I think our perceptions are programmed by genetics and environment. Consider that our genetic make-up is a mixture of our parents' genes. Their genetic make-up is a mixture of their parents'. Our genetic make-up is set at conception. But we are also influenced by the people around us. From the day we are born, our parents have a huge influence on how we view the world around us. All of the people that come into and leave our lives have some influence on how we view the world. Most of us find our views have changed over the years, more for some than for others.

Think about it. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, teachers, coaches, boyfriends or girlfriends, friends in general, bosses, mentors, even many people you think you are influencing. Life is not a one-way street. More like Newton's Third Law of motion. "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." Except the reactions are not always equal.

What I mean by that is we are influenced almost imperceptibly much of the time. Consider the Big Lie theory: That if you tell a big enough lie and repeat it often enough, people will eventually come to believe it. It is the theory behind saturation advertising. And it doesn't have to be a big lie, or even a lie at all. It can be a distortion, an opinion, even the truth. Eventually, repeated enough, it will be perceived as valid and important information. But we, subconsciously, select what is "true" and what isn't. We accept as true that with which we are most comfortable. We reject what makes us uncomfortable. And then we reinforce it by blocking out that which makes us uncomfortable (by not watching or reading it).

This is why the media is so important. Especially when it comes to politics. What we see and hear influences how we perceive things. Rightly or wrongly, we form opinions based on these things. How we perceive (I believe) is decided by genetics. By that I mean how we decide what is valid and what isn't on a very basic level. Perhaps we could say on the "molecular" level. The various influences of parents, relatives, friends, acquaintances, and others who come into our lives add another layer; the thickest one.

And then we are bombarded with advertisements, opinion pieces, and the very subtle bias that is in most news. In most cases, the bias is not blatant though we often think it is. That bias is reflected in what stories are run or stressed. And it is done at the editor level on newspapers and news blogs and at the producer and director level on TV shows. Some of that bias in television slips into the regular programming.

How do we function independently? How do we form our own opinions? I don't think we do. Well, I don't think the great majority of us do. A few rare individuals might but the rest of us are following the path of least resistance, accepting the peer pressure of those around us, accepting what we see and hear as our own.

It takes courage and determination to break away from the "conventional wisdom" and form a unique opinion. Even that might have been influenced by our early upbringing and our genetic make-up. Why we feel comfortable with a certain ideology might be because our genetic make-up established the "filters" with which we determined the importance (or lack of) of the input we got from all those others as we grew up.

It's something to think about when you consider how you feel about the political parties and the politicians.


Torggil said...

As you say, it's the nature vs nurture argument.  Nature has us preprogrammed at birth by our genetic code as being at least biased towards certain opinions.

The nurture argument proclaims its how we were raised, our influences from parents, school, peers, etc.

Either way, we are a product of  programming.

It is certainly easier to flow with the crowd than stand against it.

But it is those  few who do stand against it that make the great changes.  They jump up and down and scream loud enough, they are eventually heard, and they can make general opinions change.  Environmentalism is a prime example, with us for yonks, it did not really gain momentum until people started talking about climate change.  Now its international dogma.

I think it is those few who can change the world.  If one is not one of them, maybe one should learn how to recognize them.

you have a very interesting blog.  I'm going to follow it.  I hope you check out mine.

Sightings said...

Interesting point. But if our perceptions are programmed at birth, how come so many of us change our minds?  Or, as I quoted on my blog this week, according to Hakan Nesser, "It's only cows who never change their opinions."

Anyway, is it better these days when many news organizations (Fox, MSNBC, Wall Street Journal, etc. etc.) express sometimes very obvious bias, but openly admit their political persuasion? Or is it better when news organizations try to be "objective" but only end up hiding their point of view and being more subtle about their bias?

For me, I prefer people who try to be objective. I get bored listening to anyone -- liberals or conservatives -- who just repeat the same political mantra over and over and over again.

Meantime, about your Tablet. Nice ... but any way to make the typeface larger?

Douglas4517 said...

 Tom, no programming is perfect. :)  I believe that how we weight the various inputs is defined by our genetics. After that, it is a matter of environment. Because our programming is not ordered but random (aside from schooling and common parental practices), it is much less "fixed" than what we see in computers and robotics. We often change our minds because of peer influence.

I, too, prefer people who try to be objective. But that means more than just claiming to be and then not doing so. The subtle bias may actually be more dangerous in that it is more difficult to counter.

We'd have to sit down with an urn of coffee and discuss this for a few hours. It's a complex subject.

Douglas4517 said...

 Oh, forgot to mention... The typeface/font size is a function of Blogger, not the tablet. I goofed on that. Thought I used a large font but it reverted to Normal.. which is too small for our old eyes, eh?

Douglas4517 said...

 I thought I had left this already...

I see it as Nature Plus Nurture. Both are factors. I think genetics give us the basic "filters" for the input data; or, ato say in another way, define a "natural" inclination to believe in certain things. then we are bombarded throughout our lives with data we sift through those filters and which alter the filters in the process.

Dogma is an apt word, I think.

I wish you had passed on a link to your blog. I'd be glad to stop by.