Saturday, November 14, 2009

Perception and Reality

I was out walking my dog the other night, crossing a well-lit neighborhood street at a stop sign, when a car approached the intersection, slowed down but didn't stop, and then began to turn and came straight at us as we were crossing. I shouted at the driver, who stopped, lowered her window, and shouted back at me that I should have been wearing a light.

Well, I was flabbergasted. The intersection was well lit, there was a stop sign, I was crossing at the corner, and it was still my fault that she didn't stop, didn't see us, and almost hit us. There are at least a couple of things to be learned from this about how the mind works, and what the relationship is between what we perceive and what is real.

First, the job of the mind is to make sense of what happens going forward. She didn't see us in the intersection, therefore it was my fault for not wearing a light. Second, she had no capacity to retrospectively self-evaluate and self-correct.

So here we have an example of how we can misperceive reality without realizing it at the time, and how we can still not realize it even after it has been pointed out to us in a situation in which a potential disaster, which would have been entirely our fault, has just been narrowly averted.

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