What composes the color of a forest or your child's eyes? Is the experience of "blue" always the same, no matter who is perceiving?
In this week's episode of "The Rabbit Hole" on The Chopra Well, Deepak Chopra takes us through the rich and varied world of perception, questioning some of the "realities" we take for granted. Perception is a conscious act, and every one of the five senses can be manipulated to deliver a completely different picture of the world.
The human nervous system registers a frequency of electromagnetic radiation, or light, as a certain experience that we call "blue." But we don't know for certain that what one person sees, or perceives through any of the senses for that matter, aligns perfectly with another person's experience. And what about other species? We have no way of knowing how a bumblebee, porpoise, or dog experiences the world, even in as basic a thing as color.
Even your own perception of a hue, tone, or texture is bound to vary depending on your mood or the context of the situation. In one study, psychologists asked passersby to estimate the steepness of a nearby hill. Perceptions of the slope varied greatly, often depending on the circumstances of the participants. Those who had just run a race, were elderly, carried a heavy pack, or were in poor health consistently overestimated the hill's steepness, suggesting that fatigue and fitness are factors that can color our perception. In a later part of the study, the psychologists had participants stand on top of the hill either on a skateboard or a wooden box and asked them to estimate the slope, as well as assess their level of fear. Those standing on the skateboard overestimated the steepness and also reported feeling more fearful than those on the box, indicating that fear and confidence also play into our perceptions of reality.
Perception, as Deepak says, is mind-made. Perhaps no two sets of eyes will see exactly the same rose, and it may be frustrating when our experiences don't align perfectly with someone else's. But as long as our perceptions vary, mystery lives on in this thing we call "reality," and we'll never tire of topics for discussion.
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Check out Deepak Chopra's book, co-authored by neuroscientist Rudolph Tanzi, Super Brian: Unleashing the Explosive Power of Your Mind to Maximize Health, Happiness, and Spiritual Well-Being.
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