The ‘Perils of Perception’

Here at Relish we’ve been pontificating over perceptions and misperceptions; mainly driven by our Head of Analytics being gifted The Perils of Perception by Bobby Duffy, with said book being added to our Relish library and discussed at length internally. There is so much to unpack when considering perception versus reality or even perception versus misperception and the tangled web of influencing factors underlying such frameworks, but a couple points of consideration stood out for me:

  1. There is a system of delusion: the issue is not just what’s out there, in terms of what we’re seeing, reading and absorbing in our bubbles, but our cognitive capabilities that limit our ability to assess accurately.
  2. Things aren’t as bad as they seem: because we have a tendency to focus on and remember the negative (which evolutionarily speaking, served us well), we overestimate the ‘bad stuff’. This influences how we interact with others, react to information and shape our worlds around us.
  3. We lack numerical and statistical literacy: which can make us poor at understanding what a ‘big’ number is or to overrate the importance or significance of a piece of information we’re given.


So what can we do?

Not only as strategic and consultative researchers, but as people, we need to be more deliberative in approaching the world around us. That can be difficult, as cognitive and social shortcuts should exist to make our lives easier, but identifying when they don’t and strengthening our numerical and statistical literacy in order to interpret our world correctly should be a focus for any successful researcher. Although it’s not possible to have an entirely objective worldview, striving towards a more accurate representation of our world will make us better as researchers and, as people.