Perceptions, Interferences, and The High Cost of Attention

It’s no surprise that our perceptions influence how we view the world. The challenge is that we are limited in what can be perceived because our brains are continually assessing, simplifying, and sorting what is relevant.

Imagine trying to notice everything happening around you all at once. You are unlikely to be able to do this without a high cost. 

You may have seen the video called The Monkey Business Illusion, which is an experiment developed to show the limitations of perception. It highlights how things that seem irrelevant can fade into the background. Even though the participants knew something was going to happen, only 20% of them noticed the gorilla.  

The problem this video presents is that we are not always aware of our surroundings unless something interferes with what we are doing.

On top of this, emotional reactions make our perceptions subject to errors of what is factual because people can see things in multiple ways. With our limitations, it makes sense that we have to simplify the world to understand. 

Perception is not only your eyesight, but your senses map onto the nervous system. For more on this, check out Jordan Peterson’s full lecture. A more abbreviated example of this is if you have ever noticed how the same footage with different music shapes the meaning of a scene.  

Signals sent to the nervous system are not easy to disregard.

According to Dan Siegel, “Awareness gives you the option to make a different choice.” His Wheel of Awareness technique is an exceptional resource that can help retrain your brain to slow down and notice your surroundings, thoughts, and feelings. This can help you begin to perceive more clearly, minimize interference, and reduce costly errors in perception and attention.  

Written by: Dustin Ellis