International Viewpoints (IVy), Issue 33 - August 1997

Perception versus Sanity
By Bob Ross, USA

WHEN YOU LOOK for something you must first visualize the something you are looking for. If you don't have a clear idea of what you are looking for you will not recognize it when you come across it.

This explains why one can look for something fruitlessly that is in plain sight, and then finally find it, right where one had been looking. For example, looking vainly for a salt shaker and finally finding it right on the table where one had looked vainly before.

The explanation could be either that one had been looking for the sound "salt shaker" or perhaps for an earlier different appearing "salt shaker" in one's past experience.

Buried in noise

The mind or brain is expert at recognizing patterns buried in the midst of "noise." Where the definition of "noise" is: noise is data irrelevant to the desired information.

Recognition of anything is actually pattern recognition. We compare what we see with our eyes, hear with our ears, smell with our noses, or perceive through other senses, with a mental picture or pattern that we use for comparison purposes.

The mind can detect patterns deeply buried in the midst of noise. This is so common, that we don't realize how miraculous it is to recognize a two by four-foot window or picture frame in a forty foot by one hundred-foot wall at a glance. That wall has an area of four thousand square feet versus the 8 square feet of the window making a noise to signal ratio of four thousand divided by eight or five hundred to one.

Similarly we can recognize individual letters of the alphabet on a printed page in a book. But, any confusion as to the pattern or identity or shape of the individual letters interferes with recognition of that pattern and so slows down or prevents reading.

That is one major reason for learning letters of the alphabet thoroughly before or at least separately from learning the phonics values of letters and letter combinations. Another reason for learning letters as letters and their sequence is because that skill is needed for filing or looking up words in a dictionary or finding names in a phone book.

Pattern recognition

In life, pattern recognition plays many roles. For example, how can one achieve success in life unless one is able to recognize success or opportunity when it exists? One can only recognize what one is familiar with or what one can imagine.

Misinformation, disinformation, and errors in understanding prevent recognition of patterns and hence prevent recognition and understanding. The classical truth, that misrecognizing a word or symbol i.e. in a manner different from that intended by the originator of a message or the writer of a book, is explainable by pattern recognition theory. Pattern recognition theory states that the mind is unable to recognize meaning as correct meaning, when any piece of a message is recognized incorrectly. This is one reason why natural languages have a great deal of built in redundancy. Redundancy such as agreement of number between noun and verb helps one to not misinterpret messages.

When part of a message is misperceived or misunderstood, an incorrect message or no understandable message is perceived.

Fixed patterns of recognition inevitably produce fixed patterns of behavior.

Held down 7

Efforts to change behavior without changing perception are mostly fruitless. Also, attempting to change perception without finding the reasons for that perception or interpretation are as fruitless as attempting to get the proper answer from an adding machine when the 7 key is stuck causing a 7 to be added in or multiplied by in addition to any other action. Just as the adding machine must be repaired or a computer debugged, the mind must be debugged by finding the fixed ideas which are the reason for persistently wrong thoughts and persistently wrong actions.

Fixed thoughts are not always wrong. The adding machine gives the right answer when 7 must be added in or multiplied by, but gives wrong answers at all other times. Similarly fixed opinions about life, are right when they are in agreement with current life, but wrong at all other times.

Some data is held down more strongly than other data.

All education is a matter of learning patterns of recognition and patterns of behavior. Such patterns are drilled to be instantly recognized in the midst of noise and confusion, e.g. stop on red traffic lights, and go on green. Perceptions may result from chance assemblies of objects and circumstances or may result from seeing, feeling, hearing, etc. actual physical objects, circumstances or relationships.

Guilt -- paranoia

The old adage, that "the guilty man fleeth when no man pursueth", is a specific example of seeing delusional patterns not perceived by others. Paranoid thinking is an example of seeing feared patterns, which others do not recognize. For example, blaming undesired events on conspiracy. The fearful individual is supersensitive to the feared pattern and will perceive that particular "truth" long before others do.

The paranoid individual has occasional success at perceiving real threats. This tends to keep the paranoia in place, with its delusion of non-existent threats. This can be compared to a supersensitive smoke detector which makes lots of noise as a result of one person puffing on a cigarette in a house, not just sounding the alarm when a roast burns or a fire takes place in the house.

Wondering whether someone knows one's secrets arises from recognizing in the environment chance references to secrets one feels no one must know about. Thus a chance remark can cause one to wonder, whether someone knows or might find out, i.e., "Does he know?"



The theory of restimulation embedded in the Dianetic theories of L. Ron Hubbard depends upon patterns of recognition. Certain patterns are perceived as evidence of imminent danger.

Hubbard's error was in assigning cause to the perceived patterns, which he called "restimulators", rather than to the individual's decision to react to that perception as meaning "painful" or "dangerous".

Alfred Korzybski (of General Semantics fame) taught that we can re-educate the individual in what he called "nonallness" and "nonidentification" so as to modify modes of pattern recognition, particularly a tendency to react to words as though they were the actual things represented by the words.

In extreme cases, people who have been reacting to words or their own imagination as though it had reality, by thinking "This is a ____", or "This means ___", became able to recognize that words and thoughts are not things and change their behavior. When words are perceived as equal to things and people respond to words as though the words were the things they represent, they are in trouble.

The workability of a General Semantics (G.S.) education lies in promoting sane responses to one's perceptions of the environment.

When words are discovered to be only sounds into which we each pour our own meanings, we no longer react to words as though they had power over us. We assign that power to words and we can take that power away.

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