- the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses.
- the state of being or process of becoming aware of something through the senses.
- A WAY OF REGARDING, UNDERSTANDING, OR INTERPRETING SOMETHING; A MENTAL IMPRESSION.
The other day I mentioned to a friend that sometimes, quite rarely actually, I felt as if I was growing and I saw my feet from a great distance. It only lasts maybe 30 seconds, but can be a little disconcerting. My friend, who is not a doctor, said “Perhaps you have Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.” Huh? Really? I had to look it up. It turns out it is a fairly rare disease, the kind that you would have to explain to your Primary Care Doctor. It is a disease that makes you feel as if you are very tall or very small and everything around you is in proportion to that. So if you felt as if you were very tall then all the things around you would look small. No one really knows how or why it manifests, but it is usually accompanied with a migraine. Do I have such a thing? Probably not. It is most likely due to congestion whacking out my equilibrium as the phenomena tends to happen to me when I have a sinus infection or severe cold.
The above example shows how knowledge changes our perceptions. The internet, or in the case above, WEBMD, has provided knowledge that changed my friends perceptions of what a disease is or even that I had a disease. Having grown up without the benefit of the internet, the above conversation would have gone differently. The friend would have most likely asked more questions in order to learn or understand what I am saying. Nowadays, it seems as if everyone has an answer and if not Google is there to provide immediate knowledge. The result is that we all have answers to questions not asked. My question to my friend was, “Have you ever” not “what do you think it is”.
According to Michela C. Tacca in her paper, Commonalities between Perception and Cognition, “Perception and cognition are tightly related. Perceptual information guides our decisions and actions, and shapes our beliefs. At the same time our knowledge influences the way we perceive the world.” In other words, what we learn by reading or seeing sticks with us and changes how we think about things. Today’s world we are bombarded with information. Such information is gathered in a much different fashion than I was young. I had to read books, magazines, listen to others in order to form a valid opinion. Today we tend to get information from our social media contacts, many of whom we have never met and many we cannot verify the validity of their claims.
How many times have you seen a meme and say yep I agree with that. Well that meme is helping you to form a perception of how you feel about a subject, politics for an example. That meme, whether accurate or not, has now become part of your perception of the political arena. The same with the lengthy dissertations of those who like to opine on their feelings. Today there is a lot of talk of fake news. The perception used to be that news gave you an over view and when cable news came about, it was news tainted with opinion. We all slowly became aware that the news was to be, as Ronald Reagan once said, trusted but verified. Perceptions changed, however.
Today, we are holding media themselves responsible for the news they report. Perceptions have changed and the feeling is that news, as a whole, is feeding us bad information and tricking us into bad choices. No longer are we responsible for backing a certain candidate, law, celebrity or action. There is some part of us that is aware that bad information begets bad actions.
Back to the whole cognition and perception. Some things are easy. You see a man standing at the door fumbling in his pockets, you knowing he is looking for his keys. Someone posts I hate so and so meme you know that person dislike that thing or person. Knowledge however slight definitely changes our perceptions. Today with the internet, knowledge is no longer slight. Perceptions can swing widely back and forth, changing with each new bit of information. Do I have Alice in Wonderland syndrome? No. I will admit, though,my perception of my symptoms changed once I read about it and I had to reach back into my memory files to pull forth the real reason I sometimes feel super tall with my feet far away…congestion. Having knowledge that cognition and perception is intertwined and it would be easy to erase what I know in favor of what I just saw or read, gives me a slight advantage over those who may not be so aware.