Perception is reality! Really?


How many times has this happened to you: feedback is shared with you, you have an instant reaction of “this is not fair” and then you (or the feedbacker, or its transmitter) say politically correctly “perception is reality!”. Which says “swallow, don’t challenge the feedback, it is what it is.” Actually, I am troubled about the “perception is reality”-syndrom which I want to share with you. This is my first puzzlement on the topic:

It is true, if perception equals emotion, the emotion we awake in others is reality. A very powerful reality that will determine in many ways how they relate to us in obvious and the subtlest ways. Still, neuroscience has proven with many experiments  the long way reality (what happens in the physical world) is transformed into perception. (by the way, the far-right rhetorics in Germany are a perfect example of this phenomenon. Where in the counties with the lowest presence of refugees the xenophobic fears among the general population is the biggest. The far-right argues that this is a good reason to limit refugee influx. To me, it proves the contrary. If the presence of refugees is negatively correlating with racism, please let them in!). Thus, perception is reality as it will determine someone’s feelings and actions, but it is not necessarily real as in being an accurate reflection of  what is happening in the real world. Thus, if feedback is shared with you, I recommend to receive it with Daniel Kahnemann’s wise words: “He had an impression, but some of his impressions are illusions.”* And then you start looking what gifts are part of the feedback:

  1. What does it tell you about the senders intentions, his or her norms and expectations?
  2. What do you want to learn, how do you want to grow from it?

*Daniel Kahnemann, Thinking, Fast and Slow (London, Penguin Books, 2012)