There s an old oriental tale about a king who sends out 3 blind servants to find an elephant and report back to him on exactly what an elephant is. The first servant goes out, and upon locating what others tell him is an elephant, explores its trunk. He reports back to the king, telling him that without a doubt, an elephant is a creature like a snake. The second servant, upon having the townspeople point him to the elephant, spends his time examining the tusks. He reports back to the king, explaining that an elephant is merely a land-dwelling Walrus. The third servant finds the elephant and examines its thick, sturdy legs and grainy skin. He reports back to the king, saying that an elephant is surely akin to a moving tree.
This story is illustrating the principle of perception; that how we view the world is dependant upon the limitations of our own personal experience. The elephant tale may seem cute and impractical, but it illustrates a concept that is very true to everyday life: we never see the whole picture. The analogy is that we're all the blind men in the story. . Here's a true tale: A pigmy who had never been out of the forest, and thus had never experienced depth-perception related to faraway things, showed a similar handicap. Seeing a herd of buffalo off in the distance, he asked his guide what kind of insects they were. The man burst into hysterical laughter when the guide tried to tell him that those "insects" were in fact, big, massive buffalo viewed from afar. Because of his limited experiences, his mind couldn’t' reconcile that what appeared so small in his field of vision could in fact be very large things observed at a distance. (Turnball, 1961, page 222) We may not be blind, and most of us would never mistake a herd of buffalo for insects, yet for each and every one of us our world is being distorted on a regular basis in different but equally powerful ways.
Perception, or our view of the world, is derived from two distinct paths of input. There is the information we take in, which we'll continue to call perception. The second path is perspective, or what our brains proceed to do with the information that is taken in. Each avenue is influenced by a multitude of factors that bend and shape our resulting thoughts about any given situation.
Influences on perception: