In John 9 we read the astounding story of a man who was born blind receiving his eyesight from Jesus. Have you ever thought about the actual scope of this miracle? There is someone who has never seen anything. No signals were ever transmitted from the retina on the backside of his eyes to his brain to evoke the experience of an image. No visual memories were ever formed. This man lived in a world of sound and touch. What would he see if, suddenly, his eyes began to function, and the neural pathways came alive? The answer is: nothing. Unless there is another, far more perplexing miracle, enabling his brain to translate and understand the signals that are suddenly flooding in. Making sense of the complex, whirling tapestry of colors, shapes, and objects moving through space, the capacity for depth perception, the skill of using all this to orient himself, the ability to identify and recognize what he is seeing – all this normally takes years to learn.
The way we interact with the world around us is not a given, it is the result of a complex interaction with our environment over the course of our development that shapes our knowledge base about the world. The “3-D movie” we experience in our consciousness has gone through many filters. In psychology, this process is called perception. The basis for perception is sensation, the physiological process by which our sensory organs and the associated brain regions register and decode specific physical stimuli generated by the outside environment. The end result is not just images and sounds, it is an interpreted story – our subjective experience of reality. While sensation is straightforward and fairly objective, perception is shaped by our unique personality with its learning experience.
What do you see?
The process of perception is also at the heart of faith. Belief our unbelief comes down the question of how you interpret given information. Biblical examples are the conversion of the apostle Paul (Acts 9) or the apostle Peter’s change of heart towards Gentile believers (Acts 10). Can you remember examples how your own views suddenly “flipped,” and you began looking at the same set of facts from a completely new and different angle?
In this chapter, we will look at processes involved in perception, thinking, and decision-making. The goal is not to provide a comprehensive introduction to these areas of psychology, but to highlight some foundational ideas.