- Read ” What Factors Shape Perceptions?” on page 151 and then complete Thinking activity 4.2 on page 152.
- This is an opportunity for you to think about the unique “perception” of your perceiving lenses. Reflect on the elements in yourself and your personal history that you believe exert the strongest influence on the way you view the world.
- Create a visual representation of the prescription of your perceiving leses, highlighting the unique factors that have contributed to your distinctive perspectives on the world.
WHAT FACTORS SHAPE PERCEPTIONS?
Your perceptions of the world are dramatically influenced by your past experiences: the way you were brought up, the relationships you have had, and your training and education. Every dimension of â€œwhoâ€ you are is reflected in your perceiving lenses. It takes critical reflection to become aware of these powerful influences on our perceptions of the world and the beliefs we construct based on them.
Your special interests and areas of expertise also affect how you see the world. Consider the case of two people who are watching a football game. One person, who has very little understanding of football, sees merely a bunch of grown men hitting each other for no apparent reason. The other person, who loves football, sees complex play patterns, daring coaching strategies, effective blocking and tackling techniques, and zone defenses with â€œseamsâ€ that the receivers are trying to â€œsplit.â€ Both have their eyes focused on the same event, but they are perceiving two entirely different situations. Their perceptions differ because each person is actively selecting, organizing, and interpreting the available stimuli in different ways. The same is true of any situation in which you are perceiving something about which you have special knowledge or expertise. The following are examples:
- â€¢ A builder examining the construction of a new house
- â€¢ A music lover attending a concert
- â€¢ A naturalist experiencing the outdoors
- â€¢ A cook tasting a dish just prepared
- â€¢ A lawyer examining a contract
- â€¢ An art lover visiting a museum
Think about a special area of interest or expertise that you have and how your perceptions of that area differ from those of people who don’t share your knowledge. Ask other class members about their areas of expertise. Notice how their perceptions of that area differ from your own because of their greater knowledge and experience.
In all these cases, the perceptions of the knowledgeable person differ substantially from the perceptions of the person who lacks knowledge of that area. Of course, you do not have to be an expert to have more fully developed perceptions. It is a matter of degree.
Thinking Activity 4.2
THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT MY PERCEIVING LENSES
This is an opportunity for you to think about the unique â€œprescriptionâ€ of your perceiving lenses. Reflect on the elements in yourself and your personal history that you believe exert the strongest influence on the way that you view the world. These factors will likely include the following categories:
- â€¢ Demographics (age, gender, race/ethnicity, religion, geographical location)
- â€¢ Tastes in fashion, music, leisure activities
- â€¢ Special knowledge, talents, expertise
- â€¢ Significant experiences in your life, either positive or negative
- â€¢ Values, goals, aspirations
Create a visual representation of the prescription for your perceiving lenses, highlighting the unique factors that have contributed to your distinctive perspective on the world. Then, compare your â€œprescriptionâ€ to those of other students in your class, and discuss the ways in which your lenses result in perceptions and beliefs that are different from those produced by other prescriptions.
- Read student essay by Luiz Feliz from page 156-160 and complete thinking activity 4.5 on page 160.
- Think of an exoerience that has shaped yout life. Write and essay describing the experience and the ways it changed your life and how you perceive the world.
- This assignment should be at least one page (typed) in length.
EXPERIENCES SHAPE YOUR PERCEPTIONS
Your ways of viewing the world are developed over a long period of time through the experiences you have and your thinking about these experiences. As you think critically about your perceptions, you learn more from your experiences and about how you make sense of the world. Your perceptions may be strengthened by this understanding, or they may be changed by it. For example, read the following student passage and consider the way the writer’s experiencesâ€”and his reflection on these experiencesâ€”contributed to shaping his perspective on the world.
by Luis Feliz
I shuffle through a pile of photos on my desk and draw out one of my father. In this picture, he Looks Like Tito Rojasâ€”thick mustachio, not one hair out of place, boyish and expectant eyes with wrinkles sprouting from the sides, gentle smile with big, square Chiclet white teeth overwhelming the brown earth of his face. He wears a yellow, black, and red striped turtleneck with long sleeves. The zipper of his black jeans has faded slightly. He is putting all his body weight on his left leg. He doesn’t look much different in this photograph than he does today.
Sun up, he sleeps. Sun down, he works. He is a taxi-driver. He fades into the shadows. He becomes shadowy, no mark left behind, itinerant. The residue that remains is his absence. I recall the award ceremony he didn’t attend because he was sleeping, the Christmas party cut short because he had to work. The fast stream of the highway allows two modes of existence: forward and backward. His foot is always pressed against the gas pedal. The taxi-cab roves. Forward. Reverse. Life rushes forward and recedes simultaneously. It’s not that the driver doesn’t pull to a curb to rest or park the car and get out to stretch or talk with friends. He claws out of the cab with a limp spine, but his mind remains belted in the seat his body occupied. He walks into relationships mentally immobilized. When I see my father, I see a man trapped behind a steering wheel.
Sleep and work triumph over family. When I was 7-years-old, I was reunited with my father after five years of separation. It was difficult to overcome the awkwardness of being separated for so long. So whenever I found him sleeping, I edged into the room and peered down at his toes. He lay wrapped up in blankets as if he were in a sack and his curled toes jutted out through a small tear.
Then, at 6 P.M., when he awoke, we sat down to eat. I never met his gaze at the dinner table. My eyes scoured the words on the magnets on the refrigerator door. I shuffled my feet. My moist hands clutched the toy in my pocket. I wanted to bolt out of there. Instead, I curled my toes into hooks and firmly latched myself to the floor. When the food was brought, I sucked my stomach in. I hated the food, and I would drop the fork to delay eating. The brown beans smelled like rotten eggs. The yellow rice filled with meat Looked Like gnarled flesh. I pleaded with my eyes. 0, Papi por favor. Dinner was the hardest part of Living with strange people. I couldn’t venture into their intimacy.
My step-mother approached. I bent down and snuck under the table. I prayed. Overhead, the conversation abruptly ended. My father yelled. I rose. I leaned over the table and looked at my father. He terrified me when he looked me in the eye. Without me realizing it, he had shamed me into eating; he began to tell of the hardships of his yola trip from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico.
In front of me I have a picture of him and Mami dancing at a family party after they got back together. He wears a white shirt with light gray stripes, top button undone, and those pointy white shoes that Mami always gives him hell about. The ring on his right hand gleams as light strikes its fake diamonds. He raises the Corona bottle to his lips before he gets up to dance. His hair is jet black and gelled up. He is well-groomed, unlike me. He wears blue H&M pants.
I recall how after they finish dancing he withdraws into his inner-cellar and the boyish dark almond eyes dim. A man’s eyes hold not only the mountains he has climbed, but also the ditches into which he has fallen. My father’s aspirations sagâ€”the unfinished house in the Dominican Republic, the denied loan for a house here in New York, the incessant calls from bill collectorsâ€”his dreams wilt.
I remember his story of leaving for Puerto Rico on a yola again: â€œThe morning before I leave I get a bill from the doctor. I owe 3,000 pesos. My son’s health doesn’t improve. I can’t afford the bills anymore. The night before I depart a gentle breeze scatters some leaves into my room. I bend down and throw them out. I kiss my wife on the forehead. She moves, but doesn’t rise. No one knows that I am leaving. In the center of town, I get into a van and then a man puts me into a boat. I lean over the wooden side of the turquoise blue boat and look up at the sky. I see so many stars. Below the water stirs. The boat sways from side to side. The men to my side are young like me. They are scared too. A woman wrinkles her forehead as the boat pulls away from the shore. She doesn’t want to cry in the company of men. Shortly after, the men fall asleep. Just the woman and me remain awake. The silence of the sea terrifies me. I am alone, and although I don’t know it yet, I will never be the same person, and I will never accept it; today I have scraped off the rust marks of security.â€
My father’s words bind us to each other. He drenches me in the music of his voice. The bare language allows me a glimpse of his pain: â€œWe had nothing to eat for weeks and weeks.â€ I gazed at my father as he retold his hardships, and I loved him. I wanted to reach with outstretch arms and embrace him. An onrush of guilt propelled me forward. I attempted to rise from the chair, yet I slipped back. I guess that is the intent. Immigrant parents propagate the lie that the world is ours for the taking, and sometimes, the children believe it. I am here at Amherst College because I believed that lie. Graduating from high school at nineteen didn’t stop me from pursuing my dreams. Having an accent does not prevent me from shouting my opinions in a crowded room.
I am here at Amherst College because my imperfect father taught me through his struggle to pursue my crooked path. The obstacles he braved for me to sit here and share his story and mine jolt me forward and sustain my hopes in days when I fear that I might tumble down and break a few bones.
I didn’t want to understand my father’s optimism because I saw him as a failure; someone to set up as a foil to a â€œsuccessfulâ€ person. I grasped the lesson from the stories about his hardships. Through the concept of nosostros, we, I started to see my father. Like Richard Rodriguez, I seenosostros as the horizontal and the communal vantage point. My father fell, got up, and shook it off, because it was never about him. He subsumed the individual into the collective. It was always about us, his family. If the bedrock of his dreams was solely his own progress, he would have quit the struggle long ago. Then, a naive child, I overlooked the power of my father’s story, his effort to spin struggle into wisdom, his desire to share his most profound perceptions. I knew that my father had struggled, but it wasn’t until later that I realized that he was the bearer of all his family’s dreams. Once I realized this, I began to plumb the depths of his sorrow. I started to really understand the nature of his pain and struggle. Just as my father’s dreams were fueled by love for us, so too I am fueled by the love I have for the people in my community. I meet a new daybreak with the voices and stories of a multitude. I am because of we.
Source: by Luis Feliz, student essay
Thinking Critically About Visuals
The Roots of Violence
In the wake of the horrific massacre of first-grade children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut, there have been renewed efforts to understand the roots of gun violence so that we can better limit or even eradicate it from our lives. Although research studies have not yet established a definitive link between violent movies and video games, many people believe that these graphically violent experiences do in fact contribute to creating a culture of violence. Examine carefully these two photographs depicting images from violent video games. What elements do you find particularly disturbing? Do you think that repeated exposure to games like this, particularly in young children, contributes to â€œnumbingâ€ them to violence, or helps make violence more socially acceptable? Or do you believe that these sorts of games provide harmless entertainment that in no way contributes to making people more violent? Adam Lanza, the Newtown murderer spent untold hours playing violent video gamesâ€”does this fact influence your opinion regarding the potential threat of violent video games? Why or why not? If you were in a position to dictate public policy on video games for children, what policies would you recommend? For example, like movies, do you think that video games should be given ratings that prevent young children from playing the most graphically violent games? Why or why not?
Thinking Activity 4.5
ANALYZING A FALSE PERCEPTION
Describe an experience of a perception you had that later turned out to be false based on subsequent experiences or reflection. Answer the following questions.
- 1. What qualities of the perception led you to believe it was true?
- 2. How did this perception influence your beliefs about the world?
- 3. Describe the process that led you to conclude that the perception was false.