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What is Perception?

By Ihar V Babitski

The role of the human perception is one of the most important questions. If we would be able to understand how the human brain perceives information and operate it, and how do we make our decisions, we could more precisely make the future forecasts and increase our efficiency.

So what is perception? “Perception is the process of attaining awareness or understanding of sensory information”. In order to understand and describe process of perception we have to find all inputs and outputs of information. Find out how do we obtain information, and how do we use it?

We obtain information from the external world from our senses: taste, hearing, smell, touch, sight. Than we somehow integrate and analyze perceived information and make our decision. Decision is an “outcome of mental processes (cognitive process) leading to the selection of a course of action among several alternatives. Every decision making process produces a final choice”. How do we make a decision, or even better to ask what leads us to make a decision? All our decisions are directed by our instincts, unconsciously. The basic human instinct is self-preservation or, in other words, survival and reproduction. But the decisions, which we make according to our instincts, are different. That’s because of the upbringing, different moral values, and our ability to analyze behavior and learn. We always behave in order to maximize our instinct requirements, our ability to survive, preserve ourselves our family or our kind. This way we have three basic levels of perception. Obtaining information, integration and analysis of information, reaction. Our five senses is the input of information, while our actions and decisions are the output. The source for the input information is external world, while the output is our process of thinking based on our instincts. The understanding, which role instincts play in our life, is crucial. Instincts is the foundation of human society, is the only one thing that all human have in common.

Going back to the analysis of the perception, we assume any particular human being can be defined as a function f(y(a,b,c,d,e,)), where a,b,c,d,e – variable, which represent five senses of the human being (here and then a,b,c,d,e, represent a unit of information flow over time); through our senses we obtain information from the external world. The variables a,b,c,d,e have characteristics of the physical world and change over time, so they can be defined as (x,y,z,t), where x,y,z,t ≠ 0. y- represent understanding of ourselves as a human being, process of integration and analysis of information. The understanding take place, when at least one variable a,b,c,d,e, ≠ 0.

Necessary condition for the existence of I is y≠0, means that we have ability to realize our existence as a human being (the only thing, which distinct us from animals);  and at least one variable a,b,c,d,e, ≠ 0, which means that there is at least one source of obtaining information. That relation can be expressed as I=f(y(a,b,c,d,e,)). Basically, if a,b,c,d,e ≠ 0, and y≠0, → y(a,b,c,d,e)≠0, → I≠0. This conception simplifies our understanding how do we obtain information and how do we make our decisions and analyze information, and evolution of thoughts. This simple relation can be represented as following scheme:

Big circle represent our entity, each segment is the information which we obtain through the life time, and small circle represent our thoughts, ideas, dreams, which we ever had. Let’s say first time in my life I hear Rachmaninoff Concerto #3. Music will cause new emotions, which are deriving from what I heard and felt, after I will realize it. This new experience will affect not only my hearing but also my imaginations, feelings and even smell and taste (of fresh air in concert hall), so even my heart will start beating faster. All these new feelings will go through my head and will stay in my memory. The whole my understanding of music will change, because I’ve never heard this kind of music before, never heard anybody playing piano so good. In this case new experience can be defined as I=f(y(a+a(x),b+b(x),c+c(x),d+d(x),e+e(x))), where x – is a new experience of listening Concerto #3, which adds up to my previous experience. This equation shows us very clearly all the changes which are going on inside our brain. It’s very easy to see that the whole human entity is changing. I is not I anymore, it is a new quality of previous I. On the scheme this new experience is represented in red.

This way experience passes from individual to individual, from generation to generation, in all kinds and forms, creating a national culture ideas, and philosophy.

But let’s go further. Every moment of our live we obtain new information, uninterrupted flow of information such as our location in space and its characteristics like smell, sound, appearance, this information is vital for us to exist. Suppose I get information first time in my life, which is (a1, b1, c1, d1, e1). Next flow of information than will be (a2, b2, c2, d2, e2), etc, (an, bn, cn, dn, en)→∞. When I get next flow of information, (ax, bx, cx, dx, ex) my brain compares new information to the information I already have in order to match them. If they match to the certain extent: (for example)






My brain replicates the former pattern and retranslates it in new circumstances. (a1x, b1x, c1x, d1x, e1x), creating a new pattern of behavior. The same happens when we trying to make a decision or make a plan of behavior. We take information from our experience and extrapolate it in future according to the previous experience and test every possible way of solution, creating a new pattern of behavior, which we follow, and adjust according to the changing information.

Now if we add in the discussion the influence of our instincts, it becomes clear how the new information matches to our previous experience. Basically, we like to do anything that gives us satisfaction and do not like the opposite; we like to follow our instincts. Our experience gives us information what is good and what is bad for us. Once we touch a hot pot we are not willing to do it again. Our behavior is based on our instincts.

Following this logic any pattern of behavior can be explained from the point of view of personal gains and losses (which are different for all of us). In every particular moment of time we are right, and our decisions are right (otherwise we wouldn’t do what we are doing), as we do everything according to our instincts, which give us self-satisfaction, but, at the same time, we realize our mistakes after we’ve done them. This is happens because of our inability to track every possible pattern of behavior and take into account all the circumstances. At the same time our behavior is the source of new information. Our behavior can be imagined as a spiral, where every new coil is qualitative new information.

In short-term our behavior is straightforward, and we do everything right, although it leads us to make mistakes. Long-term behavior is more complicated and difficult to control. Problem is caused by our inability to understand what we need, or what has to be done. The answer is obvious; in long run we should follow the same goals as in short-run. How do we know our goals? We all know our goals, at least our needs, which we want to satisfy. If we will fulfill our needs we will reach our goals.

When we are using drugs, smoking, we get a short-run satisfaction, but destroying our brain in long-run, although we can get a short-run positive effect by doing so. We looking for the safe job and rely on 401K, while afraid run our own business and get higher profit, relying on our selves. What is safer in long-run? How many financial analysts, who explain where to invest, and write sophisticated books earn their money investing? Not many. Why? Because we follow short-run behavioral strategy. We prefer to trust someone, who we think knows something better than we. But is there anyone? The answer is No. As it was said before, if our brain wouldn’t know what to do, we wouldn’t do anything.

 Now everything from the other hand: y – is a constant value, which is inherited from our parents, in this case our ability to reach our goals is completely depends on the amount of information we get from external world and track through our mind. In other words, suppose y – is a productive capacity of our brain. Let say my brain are able to analyze 20 per-cent of information, and Friend John‘s brain can analyze 25 per cent of the same information at the same time, it means I have to spend 5 per cent more time in order to understand the same thing as John. What should I do in this case? Productivity (P)=value (V)/time (t), it means I have to increase value of analyzed information and (or) decrease time of analyzing, in order to be as smart as my friend John. Each time increasing the amount of analyzed useful information (here it means quality of information, regarding any particular goal) I increase productivity of my brain. And one day I will reach John. On the scheme red line is John brain productivity and blue line is mine productivity. Y = P = V * 1/t, where 1/t – constant.

But how can I avoid long-run mistakes and increase my own efficiency? In order to increase efficiency we have to increase the amount of useful information we analyze, because it quite difficult to make our brain wok faster. If “y” is constant and we know our needs, than all we have to do, is to find out missing information, which going to increase our brain performance and maximize our satisfaction. Basically, in order to fulfill our desires we have to get the knowledge, which will help us to do so.

This pattern of behavior reflects in our speech. If I say I “like philosophy” and I know that it is true for me, I have an equation, which will describe my feelings about music:  I like philosophy = true. But it is not that easy as it seems. In this case each word has a value, for example I= True. Because I know that I am I, and I can test it. I can conduct myself and I have 5 senses, which are true for me (because I can see, hear, smell, taste, touch). So I=f(y(a,b,c,d,e)). In order to describe philosophy, my brain has to get all the information about philosophy, all that I’ve ever experienced and thought about philosophy, all the statistics. All of us have different world perception, and different understanding of the same thing, because we have different experience in terms of our senses. That’s why we say tastes are differs. But I don’t have to sit and try to write down all I know about philosophy my brain have already done it for me, because I know that I like philosophy, and it’s true for me. So in this case philosophy is a function of my understanding of my feelings I have ever experienced about philosophy and everything I was thinking about philosophy: Philosophy = f(y(a1,b1,c1,d1,e1.)), where a1,b1,c1,d1,e1.-  related to experience regarding philosophy. The word like is a coefficient, which describe, to which extent I like philosophy. Basically it is a ratio: like philosophy = (like philosophy – don’t like philosophy) / (all experience related to philosophy) = True. And this is true. But such a way of thinking doesn’t reflect the reality, probably only our personal reality, our own perfect world and its laws. This is subjective way of thinking.

In order to explain any phenomena we must get rid of any subjective factors, cancel them, so we can get objective ratio. When we say “treat others the way you want them treat you”, we give a ratio, which exclude any subjective influence and let us use our own experience in order to understand this ratio:

I treat others = Others treat me;

if I=a, and others=b, we will get

a(b) = b(a), or a = b.

In this ratio we do not have any subjective influence, and it is equal for all of us. On this level of thinking we can create models and forecast behavior of any particular human being. Short-term behavior is an instinctive unconscious reaction of our brain on obtained information. It can be represented as: information → response. Long-term behavior is conscious analyzed reaction on obtained information in order to maximize our performance in the long-run, is represented as: information → evaluation → optimized response. In our example short-term behavior is:  treat me → I treat, long- term is: treat me → I treat = I treat → treat me => I treat →treat me. Both long-term and short-term behavior is governed by the instinct. In this case long term behavior has positive mathematical expectation (if calculated in terms of satisfied and unsatisfied needs), and a gain in a long run, comparing to sort-term behavior, where mathematical expectation is equal to zero. Short-term behavior can have a positive mathematical expectation only if it is governed by the long-term pattern of behavior.

These means, that any particular behavior and sum of different behaviors can be predicted and forecasted: I=limf(y(a,b,c,d,e))→F(i), where i – instinct.

Ihar V Babitski can be reached at or 804-503-6635; vist for more information.

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