Amel Belmahdi PSY100 January 8, 2013
Fundamental Insights of Psych – Fundamental Insight #1:
- What do I mean by this? Neo believed that reality was very different from what he
believed. The way we intuitively naturally go through life is that we think we’re plugged
into reality (the real world) we think we interact with it and perceive it thoroughly but it’s
not true (we never directly interact with reality) we always interact with an interpretation
of reality (a story we made for ourselves).
- If interacting with fiction and you’re the author of it then you have a lot of control of how
the story is going to turn out. If not true, you’re a victim of circumstance. Reality can
change for you and it can change DRAMATICALLY!
Our brains are artists, not mirrors:
- We live more like in the Matrix than we think. The brain is like a brain – a thing that
reflects reality to you.
- Brain is more like an artist.
- We have a representation of reality and that’s where we live in and it’s how we
interpreate the signals of what is (always living in a self-created bubble).
- Tragedy: We cause ourselves so many despairs and tragedies by believing things are
real when they’re just a construction in our heads.
- There are a lot of “gaps” in our story – ex. Reading a book and book telling you a story
but someone comes along and erased a lot of the words (ex. 50%), then the study
becomes hard to read and you try to reconstruct the story for yourself. You make
guesses and your guesses may be wrong.
- There’re a lot of gaps in our perception – we create a story to fill in the gaps to what’s
going on and we do this unconsciously – we’re not aware that we’re making the guesses
and filling in the gaps. This locks us into the way we think so we believe it’s the truth, but
it represents our guesses (hard for us to get outside of our bubble).
- The subjective representation: The brain is the biological matrix.
- Being bombarded by yellows arrows which are the bits of sensory input that are avaible
to Fred at any given moment (sight, smell, etc).
We only have access to a limited subset of Reality:
- Fred cannot think of all of these yellow arrows at the same time.
- Two limitations:
One: limited receptivity (sound frequencies we can’t hear – too high or too low,
lots of electro spectrum that we can’t see, etc) so this cuts out a lot of the yellow
arrows. Whales used to be able to hear sounds up to 1000 km away. Amel Belmahdi PSY100 January 8, 2013
Two: attentional capacity is NOT infinite (can only handle so much information
all at once). This cuts out a lot of yellow arrows.
- The red arrows are the things that he can pick up and he’s paying enough attention to
that they register in his conscious.
- These are the bits of information that Fred has at his disposal.
- When Fred gets an idea – it’s called PERCEPTION (bits of reality get turned into
subjects of our consciousness).
- Fred does not know this is a dog (sees something small, black, furry that’s making
- Much of the time reality works this way (guessing) so we get diluted to thinking we’re in
the real world. We get good at making guesses, that we think we’re right. But sometimes
our guesses are wrong (reality doesn’t agree with us).
- Small, black, furry thing growling in the corner. What is it? It’s a wolverine but Fred does
not know this. Fred things it’s a dog due to the information he has (small, black, etc). He
- Our brains make a lot of errors but the errors are infrequent enough that we usually don’t
get hit by buses or attacked by wolverines (we get through the day okay).
- Our brains have this high-speed tradeoff and there’s a small accuracy cost which is so
well hidden from us that we don’t even realize it’s there.
- Use shortcuts when thinking.
- We’re interacting with a FICTION and NOT with reality.
But how does the Mind perceive Reality?/Next Slide:
- In your brain, you have stored patterns that represent different things (mom, dad, love,
hate, etc). Amel Belmahdi PSY100 January 8, 2013
- Reality fires information at you in patterns and your brain has incoming patterns from
reality and pre-existing patterns (ex. Knowledge) to decode incoming sensory signals.
- As it finds pattern match, it generates perception.
- The decoding process (the guessing) are dependent on the patterns you’ve stored in the
past (ex. culture, experiences as man, woman, poor person, rich person, etc).
- What the brain has learned to see in the past, is largely what it sees in the present.
- Information that is so obvious (like prof lighting campfire in the middle of a lecture), but if
your brain isn’t ready to see the campfire then it can be invisible to it. If your brain isn’t
ready to decode that piece of reality, then it won’t be obvious. Sometimes it will see
what’s in front of it but it see what it wants to see/what it likes to see (what you want to
believe is in front of you). Ex. Two people watching the same video clip of a hockey
game and if person 1 likes team 1 and person 2 likes team 2 they can see the game
entirely different (can say ref made that call wrong, etc).
Next Few Slides:
- When reality comes along and presents a pattern to it, it tries to pattern match. But when
brain gets a different pattern, it gets confused.
- When our brains get stuck, we start thinking about things we like.
- Ex. Two guys and one gets the other guy to take him out to the plains and off “over
there” they see little black dots and the anthro guy turns and says “what is that? Is that
water buffalo or something?” and guy two says “are you crazy? Have you ever seen
water buffalo before? They’re huge?” and the anthro guy look and says “what? If I can
see them from far away than they have to be huge.” They decide to get close to see
what they were looking at. The little black dots started to get bigger. Guy 1 sees little
black dots and thinks they’re ants but that doesn’t make sense to him so when he gets
closer, the dots get larger. The conclusion: is that the tribe of people lived their entire
lives in dense jungle where they have never seen km away so their brains never had the
opportunity to learn the rule of looking far away and your brain can’t use the rules. Guy
came up with “construct the world hypothesis” – we use the tools that we have and if we
don’t have the tools because we never used them before than we have different views.
- Ex. Guy 1 was raised by loving family, got attention, nurture, etc. Guy 2 was neglected,
criticized, beaten, controlled, etc. Now both are 20 years old and they get involved in a
relationship or they meet someone beautiful chick but she goes to the washroom and
never comes back. They will both perceive these differently. Guy 1 will think she got
distracted or too drunk to find a way back but Guy 2 will think he got rejected and the girl
did not want to talk to him.
Fundamental Insight #2:
- We take shortcuts which lead to errors.
- “heuristics” – when we engage in reasoning and decision making (habits/habitual ways
of thinking). Amel Belmahdi PSY100 January 8, 2013
- Stereotypes are like a heuristic. Ex. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus,
based on a theory that men and woman are different (different ways of thinking and
behaving, etc). Stereotypes are a set of short cuts.
- Stereotypes as a heuristic is that holding onto a certain belief you have will make you
have a biased opinion.
- Ex. Torontonians are uptight, judgmental materialists who think they are the center of the
universe and who care little about the rich diversity of perspectives across Canada; VS.
Torontonians who are creative, open-minded, etc.
- If have one of the stereotypes and meet a Torontonian, then if the person is “cool” then
you’ll change your view on how you see them. Your behavior will change on what you
expect, may feel more or less comfortable. You generate reality in either case based on
your expectation (if hostile towards them, will be hostile back).
- Ex. G20 – If people have stereotypes on activists and riot police, if you sympathize with
activists then you might think this was abusive power. But if you don’t like activists and
the police are responsible to restrain the unruly mob, then you like the police.
- We act based on our perception, our biases can shape reality to be consistent with them
(they can create their own reality – very sneaky – you can believe a certain thing, and
because of that believe you shape the reality to be true).
- Ex. If you expect someone to be warm, funny and nice but when you meet someone
who’s introverted and cold then you’ll have different expectations. Think about how you’ll
feel with someone warm, funny, etc. than the opposite character. You’ll be more
comfortable with the warm and funny person and if you’re expecting them to be warm,
then you’ll be warm with them. If interacting with cold person, you’ll hold back more –
you’ll be more formal and proper. But if you’re warm with the cold person than the might
lighten up a bit too.
- The expectations and biases end up creating their own reality.
- Another example – job interviews. Confident job applicant comes to meet you, then
you’’ll make more eye-contact with them and you’ll lean more forward and you’ll be
interested and ask them follow up questions so you’ll have an interesting conversation.
Now imagine the person who comes and you have expectations that they’ll be sub-
standard (you’re biased against them but you’re willing to give them a chance), in your
mind you believe you’ll be fair (ask them the same questions, etc), but when they come
through the door you’re less enthusiastic, you make less eye-contact during the
interview, not asking as many follow up questions and so you end up treating them Amel Belmahdi PSY100 January 8, 2013
differently, so they’ll behave the same way (you act different without even knowing you
- Ex. Study done by Word, Zanne, & Cooper to see how interviewers treat the white vs.
black applicants. Discovered the hiring person didn’t behave the same way towards the
two applicants. The white applicants were treated like first person in the point above,
whereas the black applicants were treated like the second person in the point above.
The interviewer doesn’t know they’re being unfair because their stereotypes leak through
- Examples: Can get a whole group of people and give them one essay written by John
Smith and give another person the exact same essay written by Jamal and they don’t do