Landsiedel NLP TrainingNLPNLP LibraryPerception


Perception and Perception Filters


In communication, we can only use the information that we receive. Therefore, we need to open our senses because perception blocks prevent fluent communication.

Four simple facts about how we perceive things

(taken from an introductory lecture in Psychological Physiology)

  1. We do not perceive reality as it is. (Transformation in the sensory organs)
  2. Only a small part of reality is perceptible to us (X-rays, infrared light, etc. - animals can perceive these)
  3. Of the processes for whose perception we have sensory organs, we are only aware of those that reach a certain degree of intensity (different perception of pain)
  4. We are only vaguely aware of the differences of those processes of which we are aware. (Experiment: Weber's thresholds)

How our perception functions

(taken from "The Reality of the NLP" by Alexa Mohl)

At school we learned that the eye works like a camera. The rays of light emanating from the objects of our environment produce sharp images of the objects on the retina at the back of our eyes. This leads to the conclusion that we all have the same thing in mind, namely the reality around us.

This view of the process of seeing, of visual perception, is a mistake. Seeing does not work like a camera. The reality surrounding us does not create images in our eyes that are transmitted directly to the brain. Therefore, one cannot conclude that we all have the same thing in mind and thus share the same reality around us.

The idea that this view is wrong is something that could have occurred to us even in school. I remember asking back then what the reason could be that we see things right side up. If seeing worked like a camera, the images we see would have to be upside down. And I remember the teacher’s succinct answer: "The optic nerve turns that around!"

What we learned at school can no longer be reconciled with the results of recent neurophysiological research. Seeing does not work like a camera. It's not true that images on the retina spring from the reality surrounding us and are transmitted to the brain:

What we take pictures of, reaches our eyes as physical waves. In the cells of the retina, irritated by these waves of light, chemical processes take place that enter into the central nervous system in the form of electrical impulses. Our brain processes these impulses into inner images. Like seeing, the other processes of perception also take place: environmental influences stimulate our sensory organs, which stimulate our brain to activity. This unspecified activity of our brain produces and determines what we call our world, the images we see, sounds and sounds we hear, surfaces of the things we feel, and what we smell and taste it.

Perception filters

We perceive the world through our five senses: we see, hear, feel, smell and taste, and thus absorb a lot of information. We also represent our sensory perceptions verbally. We use expressions that refer to the visual, auditory, or kinesthetic sensory system.

Neurological filters (limitations on sensory perception by nerve cells):

There are also many other physically measurable phenomena that we cannot perceive due to our neurology, such as certain sound frequencies and light waves, which are of great importance to other living things (e.g., dogs, bats, tomatoes). That means, our sensory perception is subject to physiological limitations. Certain information is not even received.

Cultural and social filters (limitations on perception through education and the society in which an individual lives):

In addition, our perception is also shaped by cultural and social patterns. For example, the five senses of an Australian native-born baby will certainly yield very different information than that of a New Yorker. How many differences and related terms can we find for snow? Three four five? Eskimos know and name over 20 different varieties of snow! In the Congo it is considered natural to perceive spirits and ghosts – but not in our society. Spirits are reality in the Congo, in our society they are "ghosts".

That is, even with the same neurology, our perceptions of the world, in accordance with the needs and traditions present in the world, can be very different.

Individual filters (limitations on perceptions that we impose due to our personal experiences):

Individual filters function in a manner similar to cultural filters. Based on personal experience, we privilege certain categories of information while we tend to neglect or perhaps even ignore others. We are clearly able to filter out undesirable information via the so-called "party effect". It is our ability to hear a single sound from among the background noise just because we are curious about its content. We simply blend out the murmuring and glass clinking of the other party guests.

Another example: While different motorcycle sounds can be attributed to individual brands and can be enjoyed as such by a motorcycle fan, another person can identify exactly the same acoustic phenomenon as simply annoying and not find any differences in "that racket". Other statements such as "Nobody ever helps me," or "Everyone admires me" illustrate another variant of selective perception.

The fundamental processing operations

Generalization, Deletion and Distortion

Above, we have seen which framework conditions influence our perception, which factors influence the design of our "map of the world". Through our language, we are able to convey our perception to other people. Our language reflects not only our world view, but also largely the processes by which we have created our model of the world.

There are essentially three creative processes with which we process our experience and then represent it in language: generalizing, deleting and distorting (fantasizing). On the one hand, these processes allow us to survive, grow, learn, understand, and experience the wealth that the world has to offer. On the other hand, these same processes can lead to problems because we mistakenly equate / confuse our own selective perception of reality with the external world.

By generalizing, we learn to survive in the world: For example, when we have burned ourselves on a hot iron as a child, we generalize these experiences to all objects that are hot and look alike. We do not have to repeat the same experience with another iron, because we have already learned the generalization of this experience.

An example of a restrictive generalization is, for example, a typical canine phobia. The experience of having been bitten by a dog has been transferred to all existing dogs, and the result is a significant reduction in everyday freedom of movement and wellbeing.

The ability to delete allows us to record only the information that is important to us. Otherwise, we would be overwhelmed by a flood of stimuli that our consciousness could not even process. So, someone can read a book while people talk around him or while the TV is on.

However, deletions can also have a limiting effect if we delete or ignore useful experiences, as can be seen in the complaint "I get no recognition". In this statement, not only the experiences in which the person was in fact recognized have disappeared, but also the actors of this non-recognition disappear, as well as that which was not recognized by them, etc.

The third process by which we create our perception is distorting and fantasizing. With these processes, we can redesign and create our experiences anew as we wish. Based on this ability we are able to turn dreams into reality, to paint pictures or to write novels.

The disadvantages of distortion can be found in statements such as: "I regret my decision." Here, linguistically, a process - that of decision-making - is frozen into an unchangeable event. The speaker thus relinquishes control of ongoing processes by redefining them to an unalterable fact.