Perceptual Error Topic Thor May 26 January 2017

Perception comes from the input of our senses as recognized and decoded by our brain (memory, personal orientation etc, constructed understanding of the context ...). Any part of this complex process of perception can be distorted. The notion of ‘error’ arises from the consequences of distorted perception, but it is not always clear what constitutes an error.

1. Lead question: Accordion to scientific studies, 90% of the people do not realize I replaced the beginning of the sentence with an instrument" [stolen from a Facebook post :) ]. What are some uses and abuses of perceptual error?

2. Does the taste of food or drink alter according to expectations? If not, why do people insist on one brand/label over another when the ingredients are identical?

3. A movie film is a composite of still images. Our perceptual process overcomes the image fragmentation to ‘see’ a moving film. Is this an ‘error’? At what fps does it become an error?

4. Why is digital sampling (i.e. a built-in “error”) now preferred for music recording rather than an uncorrupted analogue signal?

5. In a linguistic experiment I secretly recorded a 30 minute dinner table conversation with a native English speaker. Analysing it later I found that he had made over 300 formal “errors”, but at the time I didn’t hear any of them. Why? I was listening for meaning and my brain unconsciously inserted corrections. So did the errors matter? With a non-native speaker I would hear the errors immediately. Why?

6. Social misperceptions pervade almost everything. e.g. see the site "Perils of Perception" Why is social misperception so common?

7. What are some useful ways of overcoming social misperceptions? [think of examples too]

8. So do we need to build cognitive, social and economic buffers to mitigate inevitable effects of perceptual error? If so, how?

9. There is an idiom that familiarity breeds contempt ... but is it also true that familiarity breeds a kind of respect? That is, if one is very familiar with a person or situation, won’t misperception be less likely and an adaptive response more likely? Or does prejudice just become more embedded?

10. Professor Gerd Gigerenzer (Max Plank institute, Berlin: Google him) has shown that doctors commonly misinterpret the meaning of medical statistics and uncritically accept flawed research. Why is this? However, Gigerenzer also argues that fast, heuristic decision making, while it can lead to perceptual errors, also yields an evolutionary advantage. How is this so?

11. Most of us are really bad at judging other people, but won’t admit it. Half of marriages fail. Job interviews are known to be nearly useless. Why are these errors of interpersonal perception so common, but so resistant to correction?

Perceptual Error Discussion Questions ©Thor May 2018

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