A couple of weeks ago, I wrote my thoughts on perception, and on why perception matters more than intention, especially in today’s world. I stand by what I said, and will continue to say it over and over. However, I also believe that I failed to address some additional important points regarding that topic. I forgot to mention the effects of the enemies of perception, mental blocks that prevent one from perceiving anything at all. The most prevalent of these mental blocks is the oldest enemy of perception: the logical fallacy. The logical fallacy, of course, takes many forms, but I’m going to specifically address the things that relate to what I was saying before.
You’re probably wondering how, exactly, logical fallacy defeats perception. “Greg,” you’re likely thinking, “Perceiving something and making a decision based on that differs for each person. That’s what you were saying before. One person’s logical fallacy is another person’s valid perception, right?” Well, that can be true, yes, I’ll admit that. However, the kind of logical fallacy I am going to talk about has a specific form. It generally goes like this: “If one A is also a B, then all B must, of course, be A.” I won’t give specific examples of this, because you can see them on the news every single day, and because I don’t want to show up on Google hits for those. Just know that they’re out there, and that the news media thrives on propagating those sorts of ideas as an alternative to actual reporting.
Why this defeats perception is simple: people who subscribe to these ideas use them in place of actually perceiving anything about a situation. “If all B are A,” one can think, “then I don’t actually have to know anything about any B. I just have to know that they are A, and that’s all I need to think.” This prevents us from actually taking in any new information about the situation, especially information that contradicts our assumptions. Perception is therefore defeated, and opinions based on logical fallacy continue to be propagated.
There is an old adage about assumption that I will not repeat here because of how trite it is. However, suffice to say that assuming things and basing how you act off of those assumptions does nothing more than make you appear ignorant to people who know better. Assumption, in fact, can be said to be the polar opposite of perception, if we’re speaking in terms of opposites. Perception allows the formation of opinions based on what is actually observed, while assumption provides opinion based on prejudice, bias, mob mentality, and third party information which may or may not be accurate.
There is a term in communication theory that I think relates to this as well: signal-to-noise ratio, or SNR. What it refers to is the relative level of meaningful data versus ‘noise’, which is undesired interference from outside sources that can potentially drown out or corrupt that meaningful data. While communication theory is a topic too vast and technical for me to want to cover here, when reduced to basics, there are two ways that one generally improves SNR: amplifying the signal or filtering out the noise. You, as the receiver of information cannot usually do anything about the things you see and hear. What you do have control over is learning how to ignore the undesirable noise. We humans have an advantage over electrical circuits in that we have a massive and efficient decision-making engine right between our ears. We can decide what we listen to and what we don’t.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that as important as perception is, it has traditionally been woefully underutilized throughout the course of human history. We are in an age, now, where vast amounts of information are available to us at unprecedented speeds. Similarly, in an age where everyone has a voice, it is very hard to simply block out all the noise and focus on the signal, the thing that you, yourself, have actually observed. And yet, that is the best way for you to form your own opinions about things, as opposed to relying on the opinions or others.