“perceptual information is shaped by natural selection to reflect utility, not to depict reality.” (source)
Donald H. Hoffman, professor of cognitive science at the University of California, Irvine, suggests that not only do we all perceive reality differently, but that it’s natural and necessary that we do so.
A perspective of the world that keeps us alive is more important than one that is objectively accurate.
It’s been said that our minds build our worlds.
So, each of us has a world of our own making that we live in.
Our worlds are a story we tell ourselves every moment, based on our senses and our lived experiences.
How you see the world will likely be similar to how I see the world, and yet, different in some pretty critical ways.
I once turned a man down on OK Cupid, and he said, “But we have a 98% match. That means something.” I replied that humans share 98.8% of our DNA with chimpanzees, and that it’s the differences that matter.
And, I think all of this illustrates a point I’ve been meaning to make for a while.
One that is played out in comments on my writings every day, that affects our success in life and in our relationships:
The idea that we are fundamentally THE SAME and live in the same reality, so our differences must be a result of moral or ethical failure, rather than a perfectly acceptable divergence in thought, based on lived experiences.
It’s hilarious to me, sometimes. Frustrating at others.
People will castigate me for believing what I do, because to believe that same thing IN THEIR WORLD OF THE MIND, they would have to be immoral or unethical or whatever.
While at the same time, assuming I must live in an identical world to the one they live in, and think the way they do.
I’ll offer a few examples.
I believe it is good and right to learn about gender politics, and treat people as the gender they wish to be treated as. To put effort into not gendering things that don’t need to be gendered.
Many people say I’m pandering when I do this. That I’ve been brainwashed. Because in their world, this is what THEIR motivations would be for the same behaviors. Because it would be too much effort for them to do what I do, to make those changes for others.
Whereas in my world, I grew up around people being gendered how they chose, and experiencing many different alternative expressions of identity, and while I HAVE had to learn to make a few changes, it’s not hard, and I LIKE the challenges of thinking in human terms, rather than gendered terms.
I am a selfish person. Everything I do is because I believe I will get something from it. My writings, my relationships, my lazy time. All of it.
I’ve had people tell me that I must be a horrible person to be in a relationship with, because they can only imagine what THEY want to get out of other people as my motivations—or what previous partners have tried to get out of them—and realize that if they were selfish in the same way, they would not want to be in a relationship with themselves—or those previous partners.
Where my somethings are often not understood at all, even by my partners who benefit from them. For example, I might clean up Pet’s apartment before I leave it. He says, “You don’t have to do that.”
Well, duh. I do it because it benefits me.
- His place is cleaner, and I love a clean space to spend time in.
- He is less stressed—his work is crazy, and I like his free attention to be spent on me, when possible.
- I usually do it when I need a mental break from work stuff (I work from my laptop), and it soothes me.
- It makes him happy with and grateful to me, so I get more good things.
Sure, I get that not everyone thinks that way. I didn’t when i was younger. I would think, “they made the mess, they will have to pick it up, or they will take advantage of me, and that’s not fair,” then I would grow resentful at the mess, when I could have taken care of it, and benefited from everything I just mentioned above.
I started writing because I was trying to learn more about myself and the world, to become someone different than I was. I found that people LIKED to read what I wrote, and more, they gave back to me in amazing ways by commenting and debating and showing me pieces of themselves and their thought processes.
Many people jump into my comments to disagree with me, and then when I debate them, accuse me of being upset.
Others watch these conversations and suggest that I’m being patient.
Both are usually wrong. I’m not upset. I’m Not Patient. I’m Curious.
I actually WANT to know how people think differently than I do. It makes my world and my experiences a greater place to live. It adds color and perspective to read a different point of view and know that if I lived in their world, that point of view would be valid.
It also makes me grateful for my own world, and the people in it (even when they are wrong, LOL!).
Those are just three examples. But they illustrate my point.
When we assume that everyone we come into contact with lives in the same world that we do, we hobble our chances at real connection, communication, and understanding.
My world is built for my survival, and more, I have purposefully built it—actually, rebuilt it in my 30s—for thrival.
I love my life. I’ve designed it.
It’s not perfect. I doubt it will ever be. But it’s perfectly matched to my goals and my current efforts and abilities.
And even those of you who play the illogic game of you-must-be-the-same-as-me-so-I-can-villify-you-properly are living in my world, and I learn from you every single day.