Fallible Yet Enjoyable Perception
Illusion is the first of all pleasures. Voltaire
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. Albert Einstein
Illusion is defined as an erroneous perception of reality. Seeing the sun rise or sun set isan erroneous perception of reality. So is seeing an airplane getting smaller as it flies away. These are examples of Einstein’s quote. Illusion is pleasurable because the erroneous perception is usually personally positive. An erroneous perception of reality that is personally negative is not enjoyable. But we usually believe what we want to be true, and believing is seeing. This has been the theme of most of my blogs. Because perception and illusion are so significant in today’s world of change and uncertainty, following is a review of some important thoughts about the way we see things.
- Inattentional blindness, Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons. The Invisible Gorilla book illustrates the illusion of attention. We experience far less of the world than we think we do. The famous selective attention gorilla test shows how easy it is to not notice what is in plain view; we see only what we pay attention to.
- What you see is all there is, Daniel Kahneman. In his best-selling book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Kahneman makes the point about intuitive thinking, that you see only what you see; and what you see is the map of your reality. But the map is not the territory. This is an example of “holistic blindness”.
- Positive Illusions, Shelley Taylor. She identified three common positive illusions. Unrealistically positive views of self. Exaggerated perceptions of personal control. Unrealistic optimism about the future. These are examples of unrealistic perceptions. Being realistic is being aware of things as they really are.
- The Knowledge Illusion, Stephen Sloman and Phillip Fernbach. In their book they write: By avoiding illusion, you’re more likely to be accurate. But illusion is a pleasure. Many of us spend a significant part of our lives living in illusion quite intentionally. We fantasize to enhance our creativity.
- Not all illusions are visual, Daniel Kahneman. There are illusions of thought, which are called cognitive illusions. The illusion that we understand the past fosters overconfidence in our ability to predict the future. Errors of intuitive thought are often difficult to prevent. Biases cannot always be prevented.
Apparently the joys of illusion will always be with us. Rational thinking requires constantly questioning our own intuitive thinking and would be impossibly tedious. However, it is easier to recognize other people’s illusions than our own.
If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion. Noam Chomsky
Nothing is more sad than the death of an illusion. Arthur Koestler