There is no definitive way to perceive the world, as each of us experiences it in a unique manner. Our understanding and interpretation of the stimuli we encounter is known as perception. Through our senses - sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing - we create our own personal view of the world, based on the sensory impressions that reach our brain. This process, called sensory gating, filters out irrelevant stimuli before they reach our consciousness. Our experiences and cultural upbringing condition the "program" that determines what stimuli we consider relevant, thereby shaping our perception of the world. We construct meaning based on our existing knowledge and beliefs.
For example, what are the following pictures about?
To illustrate how our perception is influenced, let's examine the following pictures:
1. The first image portrays a quinceañera, not a wedding, a celebration of a girl's 15th birthday in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
2. The second image captures the celebration of Holy Week (Semana Santa) in Spain, not a Ku Klux Klan rally.
3. The third image depicts allotment gardens in Germany, which a Colombian new to the country mistook for slums.
Ambiguous images offer further insight into the subjectivity of perception. These pictures present two possible interpretations, utilizing graphical similarities to focus our attention on specific aspects. Most people are initially only aware of one figure in the image and require effort and explanation to perceive the second one. This demonstrates how our cognitive filters shape reality, making some aspects invisible. Ambiguous pictures serve as a striking example of our selective perception.
The following video showcases various ambiguous images to further explore this concept.
The judgments we form about the stimuli we encounter are known as attitudes, representing our feelings and opinions. Values, on the other hand, constitute the moral principles guiding our judgments of what is right or wrong. Being able to shift our perspective and see the world from another person's point of view can prevent misunderstandings and conflicts. This holds particular importance in intercultural contexts, where understanding motivations, attitudes, actions, and underlying values necessitates putting ourselves in someone else's shoes.
Becoming aware of our own cultural influences is the initial step towards this understanding. By comprehending how culture shapes our behavior and communication, we can appreciate its impact. An illustrative example lies in our attitude towards time and how we manage it.
Improving our perception leads to enhanced understanding, empathy, and effective communication in a culturally diverse world. Films, being a reflection of culture, provide valuable insights, inviting exploration into different perspectives and dimensions of this complex topic.
Questionnaire - How do you manage your time?
- Is it important for you to plan things well in advance, e.g. organising a meeting, preparing for a presentation or exam, planning holidays and travel?
- How far in advance do you plan these things?
- Do you mind changing your plans?
- Do you mind having to improvise?
- Do you work well under time pressure?
- Does it bother you if someone interrupts what you are doing?
- Do you consider yourself a punctual person?
Are you a monochronic or polychromic person?
Anthropologist Edward Twitchell Hall distinguishes between monochronic cultures and polychronic cultures. Monochronic cultures place a high value on schedules and punctuality. Time is quantifiable like money. Dates and appointments are planned and organized well in advance and it is considered important to keep them.
Polychronic people focus more on what they are doing than on a predetermined schedule. They perceive the passage of time more fluidly and prefer to handle multiple tasks simultaneously. For example, they interrupt meetings to take phone calls, sign documents, etc. To exaggerate a bit, meeting deadlines and sticking to plans is a priority for monochronic people, while polychronic people value personal relationships more than plans, which can be easily changed or abandoned.
Both types of time management have advantages and disadvantages and can be viewed from different perspectives:
Monochronic time management
Is more efficient and predictable
if everything goes according to plan
Is not flexible
What impression can a polychronic person get of monochronic people?
They are inflexible and narrow-minded.
Polychronic time management
Be flexible and able to react on the spot, to adapt to new situations and to deal with the unexpected.
Tends to be less efficient
What impression can a monochronic person get of polychronic people?
They are disorganized and inefficient.
The following video outlines some features of monochronic and polychronic culture: