Perceiving Is Believing

How naive realism influences our perception of everything.

Jessica Koehler, Ph.D.
5 min readJan 24, 2021


Photo Source: Yurly Lukin

The only true voyage of discovery…would be not to visit strange lands, but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is. Marcel Proust

Perception is everything—and it is flawed. Most of us navigate our daily lives believing we see the world as it is. Our brains are perceiving an objective reality, right? Well, not quite. Everything we bring in through our senses is interpreted through the filter of our past experiences.

Understanding Sensation and Perception

Sensation is physical energy detection by our sensory organs. Our eyes, mouth, tongue, nose, and skin relay raw data via a process of transduction, which is akin to translation of physical energy-such as sound waves-into the electrochemical energy the brain understands. At this point, the information is the same from person to person-it is unbiased.

To understand human perception, you must first understand that all information in and of itself is meaningless. Beau Lotto

While Dr. Lotto’s statement is bold, from the perspective of neuroscience, it is true. Meaning is applied to everything, from the simplest to the most complex sensory input. Our brain’s interpretation of the raw sensory information is known as perception. Everything from our senses is filtered through our unique system of past experiences in the world. Usually, the meaning we apply is functional and adequate-if not fully accurate, but sometimes our inaccurate perceptions create real-world difficulty.

Perceptual Illusions

There are numerous optical illusions that distinctly convey how easily our perception can lead us to incorrect conclusions. Psychologist, Roger Shepard (1990) illustrated that our perceptions can be inaccurate with his famous table-top demonstration (see video below), which clearly…



Jessica Koehler, Ph.D.

Psychologist 🧠 | Writer ✍🏻 | Instructor 👩🏻‍💻