How Perception and Reality Relate in the Optimistic Mind
Have you seen that Ford commercial that inexplicably asserts “Perception Is Reality” halfway through? I go crazy every time I see it. Is this an accidental or deliberate slap in the face by a condescending advertiser? Madison Avenue latched onto this psycho-babble slogan years ago because the kernel of truth here is that perception is more important than reality in marketing. The best product doesn’t necessarily sell the most, a lesson I learned all too well at Commodore.
What I really hate is when people who can’t do simple arithmetic blather on about how quantum physics “proves” their crackpot theories. The observer effect in no way supports the notion of “perception is reality”. There is no implication of consciousness by “observer”. The universe worked the same way before humans evolved and will continue doing so long after we’re gone. It’s easy to water down a complex scientific idea and concoct an oversimplified metaphor that sounds metaphysical. Go back and do the math before claiming that homeopathy works via spooky action at a distance.
However, there is a biological basis to that unfortunate kernel of truth I mentioned. A recent Scientific American story describes how Price Can Make Wine Taste Better, something Mindless Eating explores in great detail. Madison Avenue knows how to work it and routinely exploits our wetware to stunning effect. Unfortunately evolution is even slower than Microsoft at patching security flaws, and a do-it-yourself behavioral gene therapy might as easily assure total obedience via some sensory or chemical cue.
The good news is that we’re not entirely helpless. Become aware of how these exploits work and you’ll have a chance to interrupt the process. Combine some neuroscience, basic media literacy, and critical thinking to fight back. 101 Mind Hacks is a fun way to learn just how faulty your perception can be. It gave me a spooky art-imitates-life moment when I realized that we’re as hacked for performance as the databases and operating systems I deride regularly.
Madison Avenue and self-help scams like “The Forum” and “The Secret” are just the latest in a long tradition of using our wetware against us; nobody does it better than the world’s major religions. Evidence mounts for “religious experiences” being nothing more than hiccups and misfires of the mind: Pilots in centrifuges see tunnels of light [Where Am I?] and magnetic fields can conjure disembodied presences [Searching for God in the Brain]. The irony is how the faithful can look at these results and claim they prove God’s existence. I just can’t grasp such a total suspension of disbelief.
I wouldn’t care what other people believed, true or false, except the theofascists–Islamic and Christian–are intent on forcing their beliefs on me. Things are better here than Cameroon, Morocco, especially Iran, and even France. However, state sodomy laws were struck down less than a generation ago. Easy come, easy go. Things could go south fast with somebody like Huckleberry Homophobe in the White House. Der Fuhrer in the Vatican isn’t helping the worldwide situation much either.
Allow me a moment of optimism though: The de facto suspension of “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” [More Evidence Military Policy Changing Towards Gays] is debunking the unit cohesion argument. Maybe a Clinton will yet topple the military’s national monument to discrimination. This election is energizing the youth vote which is strongly in favor of equal rights for gays–even if their parents are too politically timid to do the right thing. A few terms of saner minds may allow the generational shift to inoculate the country against necon fear mongering and fundamentalist hate speech.