Biased by the many lenses of reality

Just as a dog, interacting with the world through smell, or a bat, interacting with the world through noise, experiences the world differently from us, so too does every human based on the different input variables they have access to.

I know this isn’t a very novel philosophical point, but I was recently reflecting on this after realizing how often this comes up in day-to-day life, in ways that subtly shift our perception and ability to understand what’s happening, without us realizing it’s happening.

Somewhere on the internet, there are a series of porn videos; a woman secretly filmed herself sleeping with two different men, over a period of months. At first, it was just Dude1, who was very affectionate, but the sex seemed short and mild. After a number of rendezvous with Dude1, Dude2 suddenly enters the picture. There are a few weeks where the woman is going back and forth between Dude1 and Dude2, but then completely transitions to Dude2. Dude2 is less affectionate, but the sex seems longer and more intense. As is often the case on the internet, there were a bunch of people confidently commenting on how superior Dude2 is, and how the woman in question must be so happy to be with him versus Dude1.

Sex is important, but when literally the only thing you know about a relationship is what the sex looks like, it certainly warps an observer’s sense of what’s going on in the relationship or the nature of the people involved.

In my work, there is a bookkeeper who processes everyone in the company’s pay, but otherwise has minimal interaction with everyone in the organization outside her team. When she attends company events, given how much she knows about salaries, and the lack of knowledge about many other important company affairs, her sense of who and what is important must be overly influenced by salary numbers. The same goes for the accountant who knows all the sales team’s metrics and commission, but doesn’t otherwise know the sales team personalities or see them in their roles.

Or the small-town psychologist who knows many in the town’s traumas and struggles, but without access to the rest of their lives.

Or the person who sees a musician wearing their rockstar clothing, performing at a large concert, versus randomly seeing them with casual clothing at a café, with no fans around.

How good the sex looks, salary information, or knowing someone’s biggest traumas or challenges; these all tell us important things about what to expect in terms of social dynamics, how a person may interact with the world, their status, etc. Often, we don’t appreciate that the things we observe, or have more exposure to, are just one small part of the picture, and if we instead had access to different or more varied observations, we would have very different views on what to expect.