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On perception

August 11, 2011

(Picture taken on Whitehaven Beach, Australia 2011)

One of the things I’ve often wondered (probably the product of half a degree in Philosophy, or a seriously malfunctioning brain) is whether people all see colours the same way.

Perhaps when I see the sea and think it is blue, I’m actually seeing what everyone else on the planet would think is green.

But because I’ve always been told that the sea is blue I define that colour concept by that label.  I wouldn’t know any different.  I’ve always perceived things this way, so the world would never look strange to me.

I was relieved to read this article from the BBC recently, which helped to make me feel a little less crazy.

Two things I found really interesting from this:

Firstly – the power that the human brain has when it comes to processing and trying to make sense of information.  To demonstrate I saw this on Twitter earlier on today:

After reading this sentence you will realise that the the brain doesn’t recognise a second the. (@JKCorden)

And I’ve always found these exercises fascinating:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

We are hard-wired to try to make sense of our surroundings, and to create meanings, relationships, and order between things that really don’t have anything connecting them at all.

Secondly – is the point that is made at the end of the BBC article:

So we all see the world differently. Indeed, we have no choice about this because our experiences of the world are necessarily different.

None of us sees the world as it is.

In this sense we are all delusional, what each of us sees is a meaning derived from our shared and individual histories.

This awareness, possibly more than anything else, provides an irrefutable argument for celebrating diversity, rather than fear in conformity.

About 90% of my time recently (rough estimate) has been spent on branding / naming / positioning projects.

More than ever, it is research like this that makes it obvious to me that people will always have different perceptions of brands, even when they are looking at the same thing.  To make something have a similar resonance with a bigger group of people it needs to tap into a wider context – but at the same time it is the personal context that will always affect what people perceive.

You can either resist that, and try to make people conform to the one right way (ironic italics) of seeing the brand.  Or celebrate the fact that people will colour everything with their individual perceptions – using elements that have enough depth and breadth and richness to be able to support different ideas.

At the end of the day, you can’t fight human nature.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2011 9:11 am

    Damn straight, It’s inherent to human nature that we make the evidence fit our beliefs and mindset.

    • August 13, 2011 5:46 pm

      Totally agree. Subjective reality is my only reality even though my noodle tends to lean toward crazy.

  2. tom permalink
    August 12, 2011 12:41 pm

    Also interesting to remember that actually people don’t really care that much, and that maybe we should be trying to make people’s lives easier. Martin W wrote an interesting piece along those lines: http://mweigel.typepad.com/canalside-view/2011/07/frankly-my-dear-i-dont-give-a-damn-clarke-gable-in-gone-with-the-wind-a-better-starting-pointthe-l.html

    • August 14, 2011 11:02 pm

      Hello! Thanks for stopping by. I agree – if you take it as a given that normal people don’t really care about whatever it is that you are producing, then need for it to tap into something that they will care about becomes even stronger.

      Thank you for the link too – interesting stuff – and especially if you bear in mind the idea that brands exist solely as a short cut. Helps to focus on what it’s actually used for perhaps…?

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