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Selective perception


Selective perception is seeing what you want to see.

Beliefs influence perception

In a 1954 study, Princeton and Dartmouth researchers asked their students to watch a recording of a football game between the two schools and count infractions. The Princeton students reported twice as many violations against Princeton as Dartmouth students did.

In a 2003 study, Yale researchers asked people to evaluate proposed policies about welfare reform, with political parties’ endorsements clearly stated. They found that the subjects sided with their political parties regardless of their personal ideologies or the policies’ content.

In a 2011 study, people were asked to identify whether certain scientists were credible experts on global warming, disposal of nuclear waste, and gun control. Subjects largely favored the scientists whose conclusions matched their own values; the facts were irrelevant.

People distort, ignore, and reject facts based upon their perceptions of the subject. This “selective perception” is why otherwise rational people end up with irrational beliefs. People become polarized because they interpret even widely proven facts based on the beliefs of their social groups, which, in our case, is their style of martial arts.

Perception of the martial arts

The views people have about the martial arts are based upon their selective perception of the martial arts. When people get their initial knowledge about the martial arts from the entertainment industry, it influences what they believe about the martial arts, regardless of the facts. To some people, it is easier to believe the supernatural than it is to believe the natural.

They believe that training in the martial arts allows people to walk on hot embers, drive nails into wood with their hands, subdue a person with a mere touch, etc. They believe it allows a woman to defeat several men who are attacking her. They believe it allows a child to throw an adult or knock out an adult.

Once people start training in a martial art and accept a “master” as being a special person with special powers, they ignore or reject anything that disproves their beliefs. Sometimes this rejection is not a conscious effort, it is an unconscious action. Just as the college students only saw the infractions made by the other team, martial arts students only see a few things that support their martial arts; they do not even notice the huge number of things that do not support their martial arts.

Once something has been determined to be factual by widely recognized experts using proven empirical techniques, then accept it and change your beliefs accordingly. Do not ignore the facts just because they lessen or even debunk your beliefs.

  • Biba, E. (2013). Not just the facts. Popular Science. June 2013.

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