Great Expectations?

The look of the cake, it ain’t always the taste.

– The Black Keys


Perceptual constancy…. the idea that we see the world based on our previous experiences.  We believe our accumulated “perceptions” remain “constant” as we encounter new people, places, and ideas.  I first met this idea in my communications course but it applies to a bit more that just communication.

This idea is the basis for much of normal psychology; it’s the reason why we find ourselves with simple habits….why we look for the same qualities in friends, why we tend to date the same type of person, why we assume that it’s going to hurt if we walk into traffic, why our parents will always speak to us as their children, why we think every object dropped will fall to the ground, why we assume the pinatas are going to be filled with candy, and why our dogs are so excited when the word “walk” is mentioned.

All of these habitual behaviors have a history involving an initial experience with something or someone.  During the first walk as a puppy, there’s an overwhelming amount of excitement in all of the new sights, sounds, and smells; the word “walk” also becomes associated with this experience.  Afterwards, whenever the leash is touched or the word “walk” said, the dog retrieves that memory and excitedly assumes that new things will soon be encountered.

There is always the possibility of change in our perceptions too….a child’s birthday pinata that’s been broken open to release a variety of vegetables and fruits is bound to change some ideas in the minds of his/her friends regarding the usual candy filled pinatas.  While this example is mild, it shows that there will always be change around us.  Keep your mind open and expected the unexpected.

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