Prompt: “We see and understand things not as they are but as we are. ” Discuss this claim in relation to the novel, your own experience, and at least two ways of knowing. “Whilst part of what we perceive comes through our sense from the object before us, another part (and it may be the larger part) always comes out of our own mind” (James, 1842-1910). In the words of philosopher William James, myself, and this essay prompt, all that humans perceive is altered by the beliefs and biases that constitute their identities.
Not only is what we choose to believe greatly influenced by our characters and choices, but it is impossible not to be slightly biased at times. Bias and prejudice is irrational, and would fall into the category of emotional intuition, or irrational instinctive knowing. Nevertheless, what to be biased about varies from person to person, and that is why intuition and perception are considered the more fallacious ways of knowing; because they are so subjective.
Christopher John Francis Boone, the protagonist in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and myself are no exceptions to this statement, as they way we describe occurrences, people, and objects are completely different, and once you know each of us, it is evident that we are completely different people. Christopher and myself are examples of how human understanding is varied from person to person due to the differences in each psychological makeup that influences both perception and emotion, and how often one relies on either one.
Perception is human awareness of the environment via the five senses – the channels of communication between us and the outside world. However, despite the ease with which we rely on perception, it is in fact a highly complicated process in which the subconscious and unconscious minds play a great role. Due to the fact that the unconscious mind is the true representation of a person’s character, thus one can conclude that the information perceived and then process is very different for each person.
What is perceived is classified according to interpretation, context, figure and ground, and individual visual grouping. Perception is selective, so we only notice some things in our perceptual field. If we took in everything, there would be an overload of information in our minds. Thus, only certain aspects of what lies before our vision are actually noticed, and the rest is ignored and forgotten: What you see also depends on various subjective factors such as interest and mood.
Your interests can be thought of as filters which determine what shows up as you scan the world around you. If three friends go for a walk in the countryside, one may focus mainly on nature and the variety of the wildlife; a second may notice very little because her mind is on something else; and a third may attend to what his friends are wearing and talking about. As the pattern of our interests changes, so does what we perceive (van de Lagemaat, 92). This is how “normal humans'” perception is defined.
However, Christopher Boone is not a normal human; he is autistic. The autistics are defined by extreme rationalism. Due to this extreme rationalism, Christopher takes in absolutely everything that can be picked up his perception, and files it away in his neat mind. He feels lost when he is not in control of his surroundings; thus he needs to know everything about everything that is around him: “He [Sherlock Holmes] is very intelligent and he solves the mystery and he says the world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.
But he notices them, like I do” (Haddon, 73). Additionally, when Christopher goes on an outing, he notices everything around him from the number of trees by a car to the number of chocolate wrappers on the floor. Thus, one can deduce that one’s perception is based on one’s character. Most humans are preoccupied, busy, and very original, thus they only perceive what they feel as important. A fashion model may notice everyone’s clothes but not the cars they arrived in. Similarly, a mechanic may notice everyone’s cars, yet not the color of their hair.
Finally, Christopher, who is autistic and thus has an extremely organized mind, notices absolutely everything around him and stacks it away in his mind for later access, and serves as a model for the statement that perception is relative. Despite human efforts to remain as rational and reasonable as possible, trying to be so is a futile attempt as feelings matter to humans, and are likely to be consulted when important choices are being made. When someone is asked to choose between a red sweater and a yellow sweater, one might choose the red sweater because s/he just likes it better.