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We see not what is happening but what we expect to be happening. We deceive ourselves. Experience and memory enable correct judgements to be formed. But experience and memory can also make us liable to false judge­ments. Tаkе a piece of green paper and cut from it two shapes, one of a leaf and the other of a dog. Show them to a friend and ask him which is greener. His answer should bear out the fact that we are unfamiliar with green dogs.

False perceptions are called optical illusions.

Anxiety has a considerable influence on how we perceive people and objects.

Some experimenters have found that anxiety makes subjects take longer to react. Subjects are shown a series of words one after another on a tahistoscope (a device for exposing visual material for very short periods), and are asked to say the first word that comes into their heads after each of the stimulus words. If the words shown to them are emotion-provoking words such as 'love', they are found to take longer to give an answer than if the words are neutral words such as 'door'. The Galvanic Skin Response, G.S.R., is also found to be higher when we perceive emotional words on a tahistoscope.

Psychologists use the word 'threshold' to define the point at which something can be perceived. Anything that can be seen is said to be above the threshold for sight; what cannot be seen is said to be below the threshold. If, using a tahistoscope, we display an advertisement on a screen either so quickly or so dimly that all that is reported is a blur, it can be described as being shown 'subliminally', the word used to mean 'below the threshold'.

Some experimenters have concluded that emotional words shown sub­liminally have influenced the subject without his being aware of it. After the subliminal presentation the experimenter gave a signal for the subject to respond with a word. The response words have shown a greater connec­tion with the subliminally presented stimulus words than would have been expected by chance. However, it is very difficult to prove this and the experiments on subliminal perception have been criticized on the grounds that the observer can perceive something, however vague, which reminds him of the actual stimulus word.

There is evidence that subjects who are asleep are able to discrimi­nate and can be conditioned even though they are unaware of it. Some experimenters claim to have shown, that we can learn while asleep. Their experiments have been criticized on the grounds that care has not always been taken to ensure that the subjects were not simply drowsy rather than fully asleep. Even if the claims are true more experimental work needs to be done in this field to determine whether the material learnt in this way is retained better than that learnt while we are awake.

What is clear from all perception experiments is that there are very great individual differences in the way people perceive both objects and other people. Our social and cultural backgrounds, our upbring­ing at home and school, or our own particular habits , activities and experiences all influence the way in which we perceive things. In the act of perception, however objective we try to be (i.e. to see what is actually there) we cannot be rid of subjective influences. We cannot assume that others perceive or judge as we do. There is increasingly more evidence as time goes on that we should never judge others as we judge ourselves.

(James Breese. «Psychology and Everyday Life». L. ,1971, pp. 131 —136)

Read after Lesson IV.

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