Every Monday over on Discord one of the Steem communities there called Buddy Up holds a voice chat called Drop in the Ocean. Each week a word is chosen for the participants to write about. They can take any approach they want as long as the word is used. I like taking part in it. The concept challenges me to write more.
Last Monday there was a discussion about which word we’d work on this week. There was some back and forth between perspective and perception when someone put forth the opinion they meant the same thing. Perception was eventually chosen but the mistaken assertion about perspective and perception wasn’t actually addressed. Yeah, I’ll admit I could have weighed in and chose not to. I am now.
Making a statement that perception and perspective is the same thing is a lot like trying to say that because my sister and I are sisters, we are alike. We may have some shared similarities, but, we are definitely two different people with two different personalities.
The word perception derives from the Latin word “Perceptio” which means to seize or understand. Perception is the process of becoming aware of something through our physical senses — sight, touch, feel, smell etc. Perceptions are also formed on topics through how we regard, understand or interpret subject based on our own knowledge, intuitive understanding and insight.
The word perspective comes from the Latin word “Perspect” meaning to look closely. Perspective was originally applied to the art world. Prior to the fourteenth century it was unheard of to draw objects in manner which gave a correct impression of their height, width, depth and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular viewpoint. This way of drawing uses perspective.
Over time, the idea of using perspective in how we view subjects came into more common use. In many ways, our perspective on a subject is the ‘lens’ through which we view it.
My lens through which I view any subject will depend on my perspective. That perspective may be driven by my nationality, education, age, ethnicity, political viewpoint, religious beliefs etc. These points of view will impact my perceptions on a subject.
So What is the Difference?
As you can see from the definitions I’ve given you, the most simplest way to differentiate perspective and perception is that perspective is a point of view while perceptions is the interpretation of things. Let’s explore that a bit further.
When I was growing up, I was taught there are three subjects that are not discussed in polite company. Politics, religion and sex. I’m just going to use politics as an example, thus, respecting some of that upbringing.
The main reason politics and religion were not to be discussed was because they are volatile subjects for so many. People with views on either subject takes stands they are not willing to relinquish, even a bit.
Regardless of which side of the divide they are on, each person has a perspective on how they view the world around them based on the premises inherent in those views. Their perceptions of a subject are driven by those perspectives.
From my Canadian viewpoint a Conservative tends toward lower taxes, stronger business support, less government, more traditional values defined as how things have always been done. Liberals tend to lean toward more social justice balanced with fiscal needs, inclusiveness and the need for society to evolve with the awareness of the needs of those within it.
Those who hold firmly to either side of those have formed a perspective based on their respective ideals. When a topic arises they respond to the topic based on that perspective and will express their perceptions of the subject accordingly.
A hot topic here, as in many countries, is the subject of immigration. I’ll stick to legal immigrants on this example.
Conservatives are generally fine with the concept of immigrants being needed to grow our population. They get very uncomfortable, even angry at the concept of immigrants who seem like a threat to their ethnic or religious perspective. When that happens, their perceptions become a sense of their way of life being under attack.
Liberals with their more big tent, include all, perspective will be more open to looking at the cultural makeup of the arriving immigrants and be more open to accommodating the incoming immigrants ways. The Liberal perception is there is room for all, they just have to find a path that works.
Now, it’s pretty easy to see where political battles come from. Each side sees themselves as being correct in their perceptions based on their perspective.
Most thinking people actually view subjects from different points of view. As they explore and analyze those perspectives, they will start to form their perceptions based on how they choose to collate the insight they gain from different ideas, values, attitudes and experiences.
Most times a perspective comes from a single viewpoint while perception will come from the sum of several viewpoints and how you process them.
So, Perspective Comes Before Perception?
Not necessarily. Perspectives often come from our perceptions which are created from our beliefs. Beliefs come from what we are taught, often through repetition or from dramatic emotional impact. Those beliefs become part of our core being and will shape what perspectives we form or will accept.
For example, an abuse survivor will come to believe perceptions of who she or he is based on the impact of the abuse. They will interact with the world from the perspective of those beliefs of who they are no matter how wrong or unhealthy they are. It is not until that perspective is identified and challenged enough that the survivor will be able to change those perceptions to a healthier sense of self. Changing the beliefs will shift perspectives as the new points of view are processed.
Related But Not The Same
So, like my sister and I, perceptions and perspective can have some similarities but, we’re neither the same, nor interchangeable. They have to be treated as the individuals they are. I’m sure my sister is relieved cause I can’t be her.
The original version of this post was published on my blog idesofmay.com
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