Author, Teacher, Psychologist and Speaker


Posted by on Jul 16, 2012 in Blog, Monday Musing, The Power of "P" | 12 comments

Perception is the way in which we experience the world around us. It is the belief system that shapes us, stimulates us, and motivates us.

Perception has been defined as the process of becoming aware of the world around us through our senses. It can be a feeling, an opinion, an observation, or an insight.  It is our intuition, our recognition, our discernment of perceived stimuli in our environment. How we perceive, interpret and respond to these stimuli is influenced by our past encounters, our feelings, our imagination, our values, our memories, our beliefs, our expectations, and our cultural setting.

What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing.

It also depends on what sort of person you are.

C.S Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew

Do you see an old woman or a young woman in this picture?

My challenge is to think about the link between my perception and my behavior and employ some positive thinking to challenge and change some of my irrational and dysfunctional core beliefs.

Perception allows us to experience the world by a complex system in which environmental stimuli impress us through our senses, followed by a cognitive process of those stimuli, which then produces a reaction in response to those stimuli. Everything in our environment has the potential to attract our attention and begin the process. The selected object that garners our interest is called the attended stimulus. This is may be familiar stimuli – such as our surroundings in the morning as we get ready for work, or unfamiliar stimuli, such as a truck that runs a red light and rolls into our path as we are driving home. Thus begins the physical process of perceiving, processing, and recognition based on the message that the brain and nervous system receives. The final step in the perceptual process involves some action/reaction. This may be a physical response, such as running toward a helpless victim to offer assistance. Or confronting the driver of that truck.



Chances are that at the end of the physical perceptual process, the action or reaction that occurs is based upon the sum total of the input that we have stored over the years.



The factors that influence our perception are every bit as important as the attended stimulus. This explains why people who see the same thing may attach an entirely different meaning to it. A number of factors residing in the mind of the individual and/or in the target object, or in the circumstance of the situation, can shape and often distort perception. The context in which we see objects, such as work, home, social settings, including time of day, noise, lighting, movement, etc. can contribute to our perception. Also the size, proximity, novelty of the target stimuli has some bearing on our view. A target stimulus is perceived based on its relationship to its background and situation. For example, compare your perception of a woman dressed in a bikini on the beach to that same woman if she walked into a fancy restaurant.



All of this in combination with our preconceived storehouse of feelings, emotions, attitudes, interests, expectations, frustrations, motives, and so on contribute to how we perceive what we see. And since no one has the exact same point of view as we do, we sometimes see the exact same thing quite differently. Take this familiar object:

How do you see this glass?

The reality is (based on a consensus of opinion) that this is a picture of a glass with something in it. Again, research has suggested that it is a picture of a glass with a liquid, presumably water. The question is – again based on historical (rather than empirical) data – is how much water?

The perceptions outlined below are (based on a lot of time and money spent by a lot of business leaders, psychologists, and other great thinkers) indicative of how some of us might assess that glass of water!

  1. The Optimist: The glass is half full.
  2. The Pessimist: The glass is half empty.
  3. The Salesperson: How much water would you like your glass to hold?
  4. The Accountant: Does the glass really need all that water?
  5. The Attorney: If there are enough people on one side of this issue I can file a class action suit.
  6. The Investment Banker: I’m only 50% leveraged.
  7. The Engineer: The glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
  8. The Quantum Physicist: The glass has a 50% probability of holding water.
  9. The Philosopher: If nobody looks at the glass, who’s to say whether it’s half full or half empty?
  10. The Politician: Let’s take a poll and then I’ll render my opinion as to how full or empty the glass is.
  11. The Servant Leader: Whatever the amount of water, I’ll use it first to quench the thirst of those I lead.
  12.  The Author: If I cut the water count by 50%, I could sell it as a short story.

 Can you add to the list?


Our behavior is influenced greatly by our perception. We make choices and decisions daily based on knowledge, experiences, and emotions that have been formulated from our past encounters. Personal bias and misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations can be a part of our perception of people, events, and situations. This is all a vital part of our core belief system. In our personal struggle to survive and to succeed, we often fail to “see the other side”.



What is important is that your perception is your reality. Since that is true for each of us we must try to understand one another’s perceptions and accept the differences.

  • Set aside a time and place where you can reflect upon your perceptions
  • List 5 experiences that you have had that were traumatic and/or catastrophic
  • List 5 perceptions that you have about yourself that you feel are negative
  • List 5 perceptions that you have about someone else that you feel are negative
  • Recall any event, situation, circumstance that caused your negative perceptions
  • Examine the roots and the instance of any irrational perceptions
  • Reflect on what can produce a more pleasing perception
  • Focus on creating a new reality where the circumstance and the outcome are better
  • Rethink the way you see others: remember they have their own perception pack
  • Reinterpret the way others see you: give yourself freedom to be who you really are
  • Talk to others about your feelings and misperceptions – they may share your quest

Use the above reflection to focus on your perception of yourself and of other people and circumstances. And realize that perceptions can – and sometimes should – change as you grow and reinterpret yourself.



Life is like a kaleidoscope. As we look into one end, light enters into the other shining on the different particles and reflecting off the mirrors, floating, moving, changing, creating different patterns with a slight twist from the viewer.

 “We sit silently and watch the world around us. This has taken a lifetime to learn. It seems only the old are able to sit next to one another and not say anything and still feel content. The young, brash and impatient, must always break the silence. It is a waste, for silence is pure. Silence is holy. It draws people together because only those who are comfortable with each other can sit without speaking. This is the great paradox.”


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. maureen Wartski

    If we all perceived things the same way, we would never have books! A very intriguing post, Ann.

    • Ann Eisenstein

      Maureen, you are exactly right! Thank goodness our perceptions are so varied and vivid to create wonderful fantasies and explore vast regions and see things with different visions. Thanks for your wisdom and insight!

  2. susan waites

    Interesting! I particularly enjoyed the part about the glass half-full perceptions. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ann Eisenstein

      Susan, I know that “glass half full” list could be a great moment of ice-breaking in a room full of educators! Then you can add to my list! 😉 Thanks for your comments!

  3. Derick

    From your child’s point of view… “I asked for a glass of water. Why did you only bring me half of a glass????” 🙂

  4. Delphine Bigony

    Very thought provoking, Ann. It is true that “our behavior is influenced greatly by our knowledge, experiences, and emotions” (or lack thereof) . We all struggle with the perception of ourselves and others. It’s not black and white but often fuzzy shades of gray. Understanding your “perception” helps you put things into proper “perspective” which leads to happier, healthier relationships.

  5. Debra Koontz Traverso

    For me, the key takeaway was this little reminder: “…no one has the exact same point of view as we do…” If we could just remember that 24/7, think how well we’d all get along in this world! Thanks for all the other gems too!

    • Ann Eisenstein

      Debra, you are so right – what a wonderful world this would be if we could alway keep in mind that we have different points of view – perceptions and perspectives – and that is just okay! Thanks for visiting and sharing your thoughts! 😉

      • Sabrina Colvin

        Love it Ann! Many thoughts to go over. I really like the part about the beauty of silence. There is so much noise and distractions in this world, I crave silence! I guess that officially makes me old. 🙂

        • Ann Eisenstein

          Sabrina, you are so right – silence is, in fact, golden! I think that our society has become so inundated with noise and activity that we no longer listen to the silence. It is a good thing! Glad you enjoyed it! Hope you come back again! 😉

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