Perception vs Reality: What Is Truth?

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Reality is truth.

However, as human beings, we all perceive reality from different perspectives. Some views are a ‘true sense of reality’ in one sense, but could be missing the ‘bigger picture’ from another perspective.

All of our perspectives are uniquely formed by our individual life experiences. And our life experiences act as filters through which we see reality.

For example, someone who survived a tragic car crash might perceive driving after 9 pm as dangerous. The actual reality is that car crashes are rare, but the life experience of a near-death car crash can warp the perception of reality for that individual.

The same can be true with anything, and your life experience doesn’t have to be as extreme as a car crash to have your perspective warped. Having a warped perception on reality can come from something simple, like a TV show or radio channel.

In this article, we’ll look at the science as well as expert opinions, perspectives, and insights.

What Is Perception?

The dictionary definition of perception is, “the way something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.”

perception vs reality Perception vs Reality: What Is Truth?

Another definition laid out by Dr. Stephen. P. Robbins, describes perception as “a process by which we collect, organize, and interpret our sensory impressions when we’re giving meaning to something in our environment.”

Simplified, your perception is your “believed” observation. Sometimes your beliefs are rooted in your previous experiences, memories, or teachings. This can cause ‘blind spots’ in our current perception.

The Science Behind How We Perceive Truth

Living in a connected material world means that as a society, we’ve adapted to a set of rules, beliefs, and behavioral patterns that society has offered to us from birth.

According to experts, the way we perceive what’s the truth is a biochemical process. Our past experiences, conditioning, beliefs, and thoughts act as “internal commands” to the brain regarding how it should comprehend what’s going on in our surroundings.

When our senses pick up sensory input cues like vision, smell, and sound, they undergo filtration before relatable information enters our ‘conscious awareness’ in the frontal lobe part of the brain.

Our previously accumulated knowledge, determines the type of sensory information that enters our conscious awareness.

For example, when most people see a milk snake they scream, flinch, or react, but when a trained bushman comes across a milk snake their heart beat barely increases as their accumulated knowledge tells them that snake is friendly.

By screaming at a milk snake your perception of danger is a warped perception of reality due to your lack of experience or accumulated knowledge about specific snake species.

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What Is Reality?

One thing we can agree on is that we perceive reality uniquely. What’s real to you may not be what I believe it is. However, reality cares less about what you and I perceive of it.

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Reality does not conform to our viewpoints. It can’t be manipulated.

Reality is absolute truth; Reality is factual.

It is up to us to see through our own individual filters, narrow perspectives, misconceptions, warped viewpoints, and ego’s to see the clearest view of reality we can.

Your Perception Vs. Reality: How To Differentiate

Perception is the process of “processing” your environment through a lens or a filter.

We tend to interpret our environment through lenses like morality, emotions, beliefs, and experiences, then we manipulate our perception until we feel comfortable with our understanding of it.

If our perceptions sit well with us, it becomes acceptable. We are usually ready to contend, defend, and fight for it.

perception vs reality Perception vs Reality: What Is Truth?

But for some people it’s easy to influence others, to change their perception, or to resonate with another persons perception. This is because perception is a variable. Any slight distortion can change your viewpoint, which then changes your perception.

The reality, on the other hand, is unwavering and doesn’t bend. It exists as it is regardless of someone’s viewpoint. It does not need to be defended.

Top 5 Factors That Influence Your Perception on Reality

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1.    Dreams,  Aspirations, and Passions.

Is your version of reality based on your life goals, plans, and passions? For some reason, what you perceive to be your reality, is only your perception because it supports what you want in life.

For instance, a passionate professional athlete’s perception of how much money someone should spend on running shoes will be different from the perception of someone who isn’t interested in athletics.

2.    Life Experiences.

The way we see the world depends on our past individual experiences (both positive and negative).

You may wonder why your colleague takes the bus to work and carries their lunch instead of driving a car or ordering a McDonald’s.

But even though your collegue is a doctor like you, he grew up differently. He could be a immigrant, having been raised in a rural and humble home. How you both perceive the world will be different, especially if you were brought up in affluence in the Suburbs.

3.    Personality

Our personalities also influence our perceptions of reality.

An empath will view the world differently compared to someone insensitive and selfish. In the same way, an introvert has a different kind of paradigm for life compared to an extrovert.

4.    Expectations

The outcome you expect from an event, or someone can distort perception. You’ll likely incline more toward what you expect to see than the truth of what you actually see.

5.    Attitude

Your attitude towards life, others, work, relationships, political candidates, and so on informs your perception of life and reality. Perceiving through a positive lens is more likely to make you engage with situations and people more easily.

If your perception is based on negative light, fear, skepticism, jealousy, and hatred, you may misperceive things as bad, unworthy, or dangerous when they aren’t.

Top 3 Reasons Why Don’t Humans Perceive Reality Accurately, Truly, Or Objectively?

It’s mind-boggling that two people can look at similar facts and make completely different conclusions.

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 We don’t all see eye to eye on many things. It takes more than two perspectives to see in a 3d world.

1.    We Can Choose Our Perception

How we perceive reality sometimes depends on our past experiences and the identities we construct for ourselves based upon them. These constructs fuel how we view the world and how we view ourselves.

From our previous memories, we develop an ego that we wrap around our perceptions. We then begin judging everything around us through a self-centered lens rather than objectively.

Because of the ego, we may become defensive of our perceptions and do anything to keep our illusions alive. 

For instance, you’ll do anything to preserve your image as the most hardworking employee, the smartest student,  or the kindest person if you desire others to perceive you like that. 

You may also see others differently and desire to conquer them by shunning reality or their perspective and sticking to yours. Whatever you see, you want others to see too.

However, the moment you delve into how your ego developed and understand why you think the way you do, or do the things you do, your perception of reality changes.

2.    We Can Unknowingly Have Skewed Perceptions

Sensory input isn’t the only thing that shapes perception. Our energy levels, personal abilities, social identities, and so on can manipulate what we see and how we think of our worlds.

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According to studies, an overweight or fatigued individual judges a distance as much farther than their physically fit counterparts.

Similarly, if you carry a heavy backpack on a trail, you are more likely to perceive the terrains in front of you as steeper than it actually is, than if you were carrying a lighter bag.

Similarly, your perception of the world depends on influences like energy levels, feelings, moods, beliefs, and social connections at a given moment.

A decision you may make when hungry and energy levels are low may not be the same decision you would make if you just had lunch or enjoyed a chilled glass of lemonade. 

3.    False Perspectives Can Have Real Emotions.

The mental aspect of perception distorts reality and makes you believe that what you know is the truth, and that others should see it that way too.

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This is because the mind of a person experiencing feelings like stress, despair, anguish, or fear will perceive reality in a manner that supports and validates their emotions rather than the actual representation of reality.

For example, you may see people laughing. While the absolute truth is that they are laughing because they are happy and in a celebratory mood, the mind can create false perceptions, reality, explanations, or interpretations of the group’s laughter.

You start thinking that perhaps, the group is laughing at you, that they hate you, and they think you are clownish or stupid, totally contradicting reality. After all, this explanation matches perfectly with the emotions.

How To Bridge The Gap Between Perception And Reality

1.    Understand Others’ Perspectives

We are different people with different personalities and experiences. We can’t always hold the same thoughts and do the same things.

Learn to listen to others and see from their side of things. It’s respectful, plus widening your perspectives increases the amount and quality of information you get to act upon.

2.    Understand Your Perception Could Be Wrong

Perhaps, thinking you are always right, or only following other people’s ideas could explain why you have a gap between reality and your perception of it.

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When it comes to perceptions, there isn’t one absolute right or wrong. Understand that there are multiple approaches to almost any situation, and that your perception doesn’t guarantee 100% correctness.

3.    Your Perception Is Not Necessarily True Reality

What you believe is reality is subjective. It resonates with you, your feelings, and your memories. Nothing about how you perceive someone else or something else is entirely true.

And if your perception is anything close to the truth, then you know it’s really just a fraction of it.

Perception Vs. Reality Examples


Think of a young man sitting on a full train next to an older woman standing. She boarded last and is limping slightly while using a cane for support. You witness this and probably come to the quick conclusion that the young man is disrespectful because he doesn’t offer his seat to the senior passenger.

In your mind you perceive disrespect and convince yourself you are right, you may even blame the man’s parents for not raising him right.


After you start a conversation with the young man, he reveals a different story. You learn that while serving in the military a horrid accident left him with an amputated limb, rendering him unable to support himself while standing on the moving train.

This factual evidence immediately disrupts your perceived reality. You even feel remorseful because the senior citizen was seemingly physically fine and could stand unassisted.

Final Thoughts: Perception vs. Reality

Reality is always there for us to find. However, humans are creatures of comfort and make shortcuts all the time. That’s why we mostly settle on our perceptions and do not try hard enough to seek the truth.

Isn’t it easier to refer to our feelings, moods, or past experiences that reinforce our opinions than to waste time seeking validation or psycho-analyzing everyone and every situation in order to fully understand everything with complete detail.

Through practice you can tune into your self-awareness and deep conscious and better understand where your perceptions have been conditioned and where reality still remains truly undiscovered.

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